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Pissing for Xerox

Don Hopkins
5819 Ruatan Street
College Park, MD 20740

Paul Allaire
Xerox Corporation
Stamford, CT 06904

Dear Mr. Allaire:

In February of 1990, I applied for a summer internship at Xerox PARC by sending in my resume along with recommendations from Ben Shneiderman (faculty and supervisor), P. S. Krishnaprasad (faculty), Mitch Bradley (supervisor), Gudrun Polak (supervisor), and Mark Weiser (faculty, supervisor, and CSL lab director).

I was accepted and invited to join PARC for the summer, and given a list of three projects proposed by groups that wanted to sponsor me. I was excited by all three, and Christian Jacobi's proposal meshed perfectly with my interests and experience. However, when I discussed the position with Eric Bier, I learned that to qualify for the job, I would have to consent to having my urine collected and tested for evidence of drug use.

I object to not being notified of the drug test until after I had applied for the job, been accepted, and chosen a project. The announcement of summer internships at PARC broadcast to the Internet should have mentioned the drug testing requirement, along with the resume and reference requirements, so that I would have known not to apply to Xerox in the first place.

Because I wanted to work at PARC, and I had already gone through much effort to qualify for the job, I took the drug test, against my principles, and passed. I regret taking the test, compromising myself, and selling out to a company that does not respect the privacy of its employees.

I went to Roche Labs in Bethesda, Maryland to submit to the test, where I was treated rudely by the lab technician. She refused to administer the test, but after two hours her supervisor finally intervened and I was permitted to drain my bladder into a specimen jar. I related the details of my experience to Bill Skinner, and he requested that Bethesda Roche Labs be removed from Xerox's list of approved urine collection agencies. But, unfortunately, he could do nothing to address the real problem that most troubles me: Xerox's ill-conceived urine testing policy.

Screening for drug use before employment is an ineffective method of providing a drug free work place. It also invades my privacy, casts doubt on my integrity, and violates my dignity. The policy makes it harder for Xerox to hire good honest people, because it discourages them from even applying for the job. Had I known that Xerox had such a policy, before I had otherwise qualified for and been accepted to the job, I would have been sorry, but would not have wasted my time.

Even though I passed the drug test, and am completely qualified for the summer internship at Xerox PARC, I must turn it down because of the drug testing policy. I couldn't feel good about working for Xerox after the violation of my privacy, the ordeal I've been through, and the lack of respect I've been shown. The decision was a painful one: regardless of the cloud of urine testing hanging over it, Xerox PARC is a most prestigious place, where I could have been exposed to many great ideas, and met some of the best people in the profession.

I wish I could have spent the summer at Xerox PARC, but instead I have taken a full time job at Sun Microsystems, a company that respects its employees enough to provide a drug free work place without invading their privacy. I won't be looking for other employment in the forseeable future, but I would be delighted to hear when Xerox has changed its drug testing policy. Until such a time, I hope that potential job applicants learn about the policy before they decide to apply.

I sympathize with my colleagues who work in positions they would no longer be willing to accept on moral grounds, and who have been forced to compromise their principles because of other responsibilities.

"What are politicians going to tell people when the Constitution is gone and we still have a drug problem?"
         -- William Simpson, A.C.L.U.

Sincerely and regretfully,
Don Hopkins

Last modified: 2002-Jun-19 23:39:23

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