When I first started working in Silicon Valley as a PC technician 15 years ago, you often got the job with a firm handshake after filling out the application and H.R. forms. The paperwork got longer and longer over years, especially the non-disclosure agreements and employee manuals. Then I noticed a new wrinkle in this process: drug testing. Now you get the job with a firm shake off after peeing into a plastic cup.
Was drug testing Silicon Valley tech workers becoming a future trend?
The first time I ever took a drug test was for a new assignment at a Fortune 500 company from a contracting agency that I was already working for. I wasn’t worried about not passing a drug test since I never used drugs. (If I was being tested 15 years ago when I had a roommate with a medical marijuana prescription, where the second hand smoke caused me to have sinus headaches and infections, I would have something to worry about.) Taking a drug test after spending three hours to fill out the forms was more of a nuisance than anything else.
I drove down to the testing center near Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, drunk four bottles of water, and waited in the car until I was ready to pee. After entering the testing center, presenting the form and my driver’s license, and waiting a short while, I was escorted into a room to empty out my pockets, wash my hands and take the plastic cup into the restroom. A black-and-white sign across the back of the toilet said “DO NOT FLUSH” and the flush handle was locked in place. Despite my strenuous effort to move things along, I only peed enough to fill up to the minimum line on the plastic cup. The nurse took my offering at the ivory throne away. I filled up my pockets and sat down in the waiting area.
The report came back 15 minutes later that I was clean as a whistle.
The assignment at the Fortune 500 company went on hiatus with no prospects for more work. The two contracting agencies that usually alternated to provide me with work had nothing. After updating my resume on the job search websites, I was contacted the next day by a contracting agency I worked for seven years ago for identical work at the same pay rate. The recruiter forwarded my resume to the account manager, who decided to hire me on the spot without interviewing me. Three hours after I finished filling out all the forms, an email popped in saying that I needed to take a drug test.
After turning in my badge and equipment, my former coworker told me that drug testing was a fact of life in Silicon Valley. Not sure how that could be with all the pothead programmers running loose in the valley. I went over to the testing center to give another offering at the ivory throne with a firm shake off.