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Pho to by Lou is Du bose Austin IN THE LINGUA FRANCA of Silicone Valley, Minco Technology Labs, Inc., is a “processing house.” Nothing, high-tech cognoscenti will tell you, is manufactured there. Large “wafers” of microchips purchased from companies like Texas Instruments and Motorola are inspected under the magnification of powerful microscopes, packaged, sorted, inspected again, and made ready for shipment. In some instances the tiny chips are custom assembled into larger subcomponents, usually designed to be plugged into a circuit-board that is designed to be con Brenda Jennings nected to a larger system that more likely than not is a small component part of an even larger small, technological wonderwork that could probably be better manufactured by Koreans. Widgets in and widgets out, processing houses owe their existence to the demand, by larger assemblers or manufacturers, to have orders filled quickly and efficiently. Processing house workers are typically nonunion, low-payed, low-skilled and often female. Work in such factories is usually brutally tedious and turnover often is high. Five hours south of Austin a company like Minco might be called a maquiladora. In the winter of 1986, an entrepreneurial young employee by the name of Jeff Rouse managed to smuggle about $10,000 worth of technology out of the Austin processing house, only to be caught after he tried to sell some of it back to the original manufacturers. Rouse had been hired by Minco even after he disclosed that he was a reformed heroin addict. It was determined, in the course of his trial, that he was selling his company’s products to support a drug habit. On October 1 of last year Minco Chief Executive Officer Roger Minard summoned his employees to a meeting. “I’m sure you’ve all heard about the theft,” Minard is reported to have told workers. “We have a drug problem,” he continued and warned employees that Minco would not tolerate the use of illegal drugs. The company was going to begin a drug testing program. Management had agreed to volunteer first and by January all employees would be subject to plant-wide, random, periodic, urinalysis. Rehabilitation would be made available to those employees who tested positive, and as long as subsequent tests were negative, rehabilitated employees would not be fired. Any employee who refused to participate in the drug testing program, however, would be terminated. In October of 1986, Brenda Jennings was working as a technical assistant in Minco’s quality-control department. She had been hired in 1984 at $4.00 an hour as a temporary die-sort inspector. By 1986 she had been promoted twice and was supporting her husband and a tenyear-old son on the $6.50 per hour plus overtime that she earned as a technical assistant. “I sat on the front row at the meeting and didn’t say one word,” Jennings said in an interview at the East Austin office of the Texas Civil Liberties Union. “About six workers asked a lot of questions at the meeting,” she added. “And none of them are at Minco today.” In December, TCLU Legal Director Jim Harrington went to a state district court in Austin and asked that the company be enjoined from mandatory drug testing of employees. On May 23, Judge Joseph Hart explained his decision in an eleven page letter to opposing attorneys. Hart began by reaffirming the almost neo-feudal Texas doctrine of employment at will. Essentially, Hart argued that there is no element of a contract between an employee and her employer in Texas. An employee, in the absence of a written contract stating otherwise, holds her job only until the employer for whatever reason decides that her services are no longer required. According to Hart, Brenda Jennings had only a “unilateral belief that she might be employed for so long as her work was satisfactory. ” Under the doctrine of employment at will as defined by Judge Hart, when an employer notifies an employee of changes in employment terms, “the employee must accept the new terms or quit.” Urinalysis is one such change in employment terms. And as there is no state statute prohibiting discharge of employees for refusal to submit to urinalysis, any employer can require a worker to “consent to urinalysis or quit. ” Employment at will now becomes the linchpin in cases brought to court by employees protesting mandatory drug testing in the workplace. W RILE HARRINGTON argued that the test was an unwar ranted assault on a person’s fundamental right of privacy, Hart held that since results of the test would be shared by only a few persons, privacy was not an issue. An invasion of privacy, he wrote, occurs only when personnel matters are “communicated to the public at large.” Hart did provide, in his decision, strict guidelines for urine testing, insisting that tests be conducted in private medical offices without direct observation of the employee while she provides the specimen \(a considerably higher standard than the company originally intended for workers and used in pre-employment Urinalysis or Your Job By Louis Dubose 16 JUNE 12, 1987