Mellon Bank Just Says No

Random drug tests have been the rage for several years for workers whose impairment poses a physical danger to themselves and others--truck drivers, for instance. But now, unscheduled tests are spreading to the white-collar confines of financial services: Pittsburgh-based Mellon Bank has started randomly examining employees for drugs--and plans to fire those testing positive.

Mellon (22,000 employees), which insists it has no drug problem to inspire the policy, still fears zoned-out workers making financial errors. The tests will affect tellers a lot, although they will occur at all levels of the bank, Mellon says. Testing, the bank says, also will deter drug use.

Many major companies, including banks, already test for drugs before hiring or when a worker exhibits symptoms of abuse. Random checks, says the American Management Assn., are most prevalent in transportation (75% of companies surveyed), government (48%), and manufacturing (31%). Financial services? Only 3.5%. Since banker drug abuse isn't a physical threat to clients, American Civil Liberties Union senior fellow Milind Shah calls the new drug tests "an unjustified invasion of privacy."

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.