Pubdate: Sun, 08 Aug 2010
Source: Altoona Mirror (PA)
Copyright: 2010 Altoona Mirror
Author: Walt Frank, Mirror Staff Writer


Local Businesses Have Differing Opinions On Drug Testing Workers

Drugs continue to be a problem in the Altoona area, but the question
remains whether those drug problems are having an impact on local
companies filling job openings.

"When potential employees find out you require a drug test, they lose
candidates. When they find out you require a drug test, they
disappear," said Joe Hurd, president and CEO of the Blair County
Chamber of Commerce.

He added that the chamber encourages companies to drug test potential

"We understand it can create an additional expense, but this is
something essential to weed out the drug users who are passed back and
forth among employers," Hurd said. "We are doing what we can to
encourage employers to require the test and incur the expense."

While there is negative impact at some companies as far as the pool of
potential workers, officials at NPC Inc. in Claysburg and Appleton's
Spring Mill in Roaring Spring say required drug tests have not hurt
their efforts to find qualified workers.

"We are upfront with people and tell them they are going to be tested.
We offer them a position and send them for the test. Within 24 hours
of the job offer, they must go for the screening," NPC spokeswoman
Sherri Steward said. "If they don't pass, the relationship will be
terminated. In rare instances, someone doesn't get a satisfactory result."

Steward said the failure rate has been about 2 percent.

Appleton also requires post-offer pre-employment screening.

"We let people know we are drug-free and require it," Appleton
spokeswoman Beth Norris said. "Employment is conditional upon passing
a physical and the drug and alcohol test. We are not having problems."

She said it is possible that potential employees could "plan around"
the test since it isn't required within 24 hours .

"We also have random drug testing during their 120-day probation
period," Norris said. "They may pass the pre-employment drug test, but
it is hard to plan for random testing. If someone has a problem, it
should show up in the 120 days."

N.E.W. Customer Service Companies Inc., Altoona, hires only one in
five applicants, but officials say drug testing doesn't seem to be a

N.E.W. requires mandatory testing for employees who will work with
certain clients and random drug testing for employees who will work
with others.

"There are people who aren't being hired. Some don't have the skills
needed for the work we provide," said Michael Phillips, director of
operations at the Altoona center.

"Our process itself screens out a lot of people prior to the drug
testing. I don't see the drug issues impacting us," he said.

Altoona Regional Health System also is not having a problem with
applicants passing its required drug testing.

"We see almost no positive results here," said Dr. George Fouse,
medical director of HealthForce, which does drug testing for Altoona
Regional Health System.

HealthForce also does drug testing for more than 30 large and small
businesses in the area, and Fouse said some companies are having a

"I think there is a wide variety in the numbers of positives that turn
up on pre-employment drug screenings. A couple of my clients have a
significantly higher rate, but it doesn't constitute a majority. It is
well under 50 percent. I have none higher than 50 percent," Fouse said.

"The idea of pre-employment screening is important. Pre-employment
drug screening seems to weed out people," he added

Gary Naugle, Altoona Regional senior vice president of human
resources, believes since the health system makes it known that they
do drug screenings, it keeps people who use drugs from applying.

"That is one reason our positive results are so low," Naugle

If a potential employee fails a drug test, some companies will not
accept future applications from them. Steward said NPC is among them.

"If you fail the post-offer screening, it disqualifies you for future
hiring," she said.

It's a similar situation at Altoona Regional.

"In general if you do not pass the initial test, it would be difficult
to apply again. That is a reasonable policy. If you failed it once,
you are deemed to have illicit drug use," Fouse said.

"There are a lot of good people who want jobs and don't have this

Other companies do not have the same guideline.

N.E.W., for example, allows those who fail a drug test to reapply
after a three-month period. Appleton also does not bar those who fail
from applying later.

"I won't say they couldn't apply later. They may change," Norris

Pre-employment screening may scare some potential employees

"I have heard that," Norris said. "When people know there is drug
testing there may be a consideration in their thought process of
whether to apply." 
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