Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, employee drug screening, Federal law
Since Oregon’s recreational marijuana legalization laws went into effect at the beginning of July, many state employers have begun releasing memos re-stating their drug policies and reminding employees that nothing is likely to change in those policies.
Employers are still allowed to conduct drug tests, and ensure their employees show up for work sober, though some acknowledge that what an employee does on his or her own time is their own business.
“If an employee wants to smoke a joint at home at night with their dinner, okay, as long as they don’t come to work impaired,” said Anna Kanwit, Portland’s human resources director.
However, some job positions do not have that flexibility. Under Oregon and federal laws, some positions are prohibited from using medicinal or recreational marijuana under any circumstances. Those who were previously prohibited from using marijuana — including law enforcement officers, firefighters and commercial drivers — must still eschew legal marijuana in order to keep their jobs.
Oregon’s largest transit agency, TriMet, issued a statement to employees that said, “[O]ur policy still prohibits the consumption of marijuana by any employee at any time for any purpose.” Employees of TriMet include railway conductors, mechanics and maintenance crews, bus drivers and other transportation positions where employee actions can affect public safety.
Even if one’s position doesn’t fall under that prohibition umbrella, that doesn’t mean that drug usage will be tolerated, even if it’s legal. Portland’s school district maintains its zero-tolerance drug policies for all on-campus or school-related events, as well as field trips. Many other schools have similar drug-free district policies.
Despite the recreational legality, if an employee shows up for work high and fails a drug test, an employer may still enact disciplinary measures.
Oregon is an at-will employment state. All marijuana usage, including medicinal, is still illegal under federal law.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing policy, employee drug screening, failing drug tests
In a 6-0 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that employers may lawfully terminate employees that fail drug tests due to marijuana usage, even if the drug is only used outside of working hours. The Court determined that zero-tolerance policies trump the legal usage of medical marijuana within the state.
The case was brought before the Court by Brandon Coats, who was fired from Dish Network in 2010 after failing a drug test due to medical marijuana usage. Coats had a medical marijuana card, and used the drug after he was in a car accident that left him a quadriplegic.
While the ruling is a disappointment for those who use medical marijuana legally in Colorado, the Court’s decision provides some much-needed clarity to employers. This ruling will allow employers to craft drug policies without the fear of being sued if they terminate a job due to a failed drug test. Employers are still allowed to determine whether they want or require a drug-free work zone, and can decide for themselves whether to instate zero-tolerance policies. (Some Colorado employers have eliminated THC from the list of drugs screened for during the pre-employment process.)
Coats and his attorneys have no current plans to take this case to a higher court. Medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and the U.S. Supreme Court would not be likely to side with employees who utilize marijuana when off the clock.
“You need the Colorado Supreme Court to stand up for its own laws,” said Michael Evans, Coats’ attorney. “The U.S. Supreme Court is not going to do that.”
Posted in drug and alcohol testing, drug screening, drug testing policy, FAA, Federal Aviation Administration
Allegiant Air, a budget airline that competes with Southwest Airlines and Jet Blue, is expected to pay the Federal Aviation Administration fines of more than $260,000 for failing to include all of its employees in a random drug and alcohol testing pool, per FAA requirements.
According to the FAA, 25 of Allegiant Air’s employees were not included in random screening pools, including employees whose jobs required on-the-job safety sensitivity, such as pilots, air traffic controllers, security workers and flight attendants.
A statement on the FAA’s website said that 11 of those 25 employees performed their normal job functions even though they hadn’t been included in the drug testing pool.
In addition, one employee had tested positive on a previous drug and alcohol test, and proper protocols were not followed regarding follow-up drug tests.
The FAA and the Department of Transportation have guidelines in place regarding airline staff drug testing, including testing regulations for those who hold safety-specific positions. The DoT requires that, if an airline employee tests positive for drugs or alcohol, he or she must be monitored during follow-up drug tests. The employee in question was allowed to take the follow-up test unsupervised.
“The safety of our passengers and crew is always our number one priority at Allegiant,” said Eric Gust, Allegiant’s Vice President of Safety and Security. “We are currently reviewing all of the records and events associated with the FAA allegation. However, our initial assessment is that the safety of our operation was not compromised.”
The FAA is expected to meet with Allegiant Air representatives again in the coming weeks.
photo credit: N872GA via photopin (license)
Posted in background checks, drug screening, drug testing
The FBI has a fingerprint database for conducting federal criminal background checks, and plenty of organizations and employers require their employees and volunteers to be fingerprinted as a way to ensure the workers do not have criminal records. But can fingerprint background checks be used for anything besides criminal records? A new study shows they can.
Researchers at the University of Surrey in the U.K., along with researchers from other U.K. and Netherlands universities, have just found another reason to collect fingerprints: drug tests. A new study shows fingerprints are able to provide indicators that an individual has recently used cocaine, by using a mass spectrometer to detect atom-level benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine excreted in sweat.
“When someone has taken cocaine, they excrete traces of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine as they metabolize the drug, and these chemical indicators are present in fingerprint residue,” said Dr. Melanie Bailey, the lead author of the study.
The samples that the researchers tested were from drug-treatment participants in the U.K., and both fingerprint and saliva samples were taken to compare the results.
Potentially being able to conduct drug tests through fingerprints would be extremely beneficial to employers: there would be far less risk of individuals faking drug tests by utilizing bodily fluids other than their own, as an individual’s fingerprint stores both the test results and the person’s identity; and the collection process would be easier, more sanitary, and less invasive, since urine or blood would not need collection.
In addition, law enforcement could use miniature spectrometers in traffic stops in which driving under the influence is suspected.
However, that technology is not yet available to the public, and remains very expensive for the time being. The researchers expect that portable and affordable spectrometers will be available within the next 10 years.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing policy, drugs in the workplace
Starting July 1, Oregon residents that are over age 21 will be able to legally use marijuana recreationally. In addition, Measure 91 will allow individuals to possess up to eight ounces of cannabis legally, carry one ounce publicly, and grow up to four cannabis plants at their home. But that doesn’t mean that employers are on board.
Until July, all marijuana use including medical marijuana is illegal in the state, but once the new law becomes active, employers will still not be required to update their drug policies. At some businesses, employees can expect no leniency when it comes to a failed drug test, even after the drug is declared legal and if the employee has a prescription. Individuals who utilize the drug recreationally or medically during non-working hours can still fail a drug test at work, and in the state of Oregon, employees can be terminated for almost any reason, provided they are not protected by a union. It will be up to the individual employer to determine how to handle a failed drug test.
This subject was brought up in a 2010 Oregon Supreme Court case (Emerald Steel Fabricators v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries), in which the court ruled that it is not disability discrimination to fire or refuse to hire someone that uses medical marijuana, because federal law bans the use of the drug. It is expected that the state courts may see some challenges to that ruling over the coming years.
“So long as marijuana is criminalized under federal law, the argument about whether you can be fired for your off-the-job use doesn’t go very far,” said Portland employment attorney Michael Rose.
Those who are employed by the federal government and those who work under federal contracts are, and will continue to be, governed under zero-tolerance drug policies mandated by the government, since federal law does not recognize pot legality regardless of the state’s stance. Other jobs that require employee sobriety, such as those in the transportation and manufacturing industries, may also require employees to continue to follow zero-tolerance policies.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, employee drug screening, employment
Does your business currently have a drug testing policy in place? If not, you may consider creating one. If you do, you can improve your business and increase profits by conducting drug tests both when new employees are hired, as well as conducting random drug tests and screening after any kind of accident has occurred.
Here are a few ways you can see improvements in your company by drug testing, from a former human resources manager and director.
Find better workers.
When word gets around that your company conducts drug tests, you’re automatically able to screen out potential employees that won’t be able to pass drug tests — because they are less likely to apply for jobs at your business. You’ll receive higher-quality applicants that are more likely to show up on time and do their jobs efficiently, which will also provide the added benefit of making the work environment nicer for new and existing employees.
Reduce the number of accidents.
While it’s a good idea to continue to conduct random drug tests after an employee has been hired — especially after any kind of workplace accident — doing preliminary drug tests can dramatically improve work conditions due to improved safety for all workers; if employees care about the work they’re doing and are not impaired or absent during working hours, fewer mistakes and missteps are likely to happen. Likewise, fewer accidents mean your company will spend less on workers’ compensation claims and lost time.
Cut down on unnecessary expenses.
Hiring a new employee is more expensive than retaining a good one, and the costs of a bad hire are astronomical. Between the time spent on interviewing and background checking, productivity lost due to a position remaining unfilled for any length of time, and training new employees, your business may find itself eating funds it shouldn’t be.
Contact Mind Your Business for more information about how to implement a drug-testing policy and get started on screening, and see how your business can improve.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, employment, failing drug tests
As more and more states continue to discuss the legalization of medical marijuana — or at least the decriminalization of possessing small quantities of the drug — employers must consider whether to update drug-testing policies and how to best deal with employees who test positive for a legal drug. However, when it comes to hiring workers from across state lines, legalization puts some employers in a bit of a pickle.
Medical marijuana usage is still illegal in more than half of the states. Employers in those states would, obviously, have their own drug-testing policies in place that would not have been changed, because their state’s laws have not changed. But if an employer in one of those states is considering hiring a candidate from outside the state — perhaps from one of the states in which marijuana is actually legal — it creates a confusing situation.
Should an applicant be denied a job in another state because he or she utilizes a drug that is legal in the state in which he or she resides?
One problem is that THC — the active ingredient in cannabis — can stay in the body for weeks or months after using the drug.
“If you’re a heavy smoker, you may never test below the limit, even thought you might not be impaired,” wrote Tony Coder, assistant director for the Drug Free Action Alliance in Columbus, Ohio.
Some employers choose to keep existing drug policies in place regardless of whether the applicant is coming from a state where the drug is legal, as even some employers in those states have zero-tolerance drug policies.
“We treat all employees the same [regardless of where they’re from],” said Mike Godwin, Human Resources VP for Eggleston Services, a hiring agency in Virginia. “It is a drug-free environment. Until the Commonwealth of Virginia decides to make a change, we wouldn’t make a change ourselves.”
Because the issue of marijuana legalization is such a gray area at this time, employers should make sure that existing drug-testing policies are followed consistently, regardless of where the applicant is from.
Officially, marijuana usage is illegal by federal law, but the administration has allowed the states to determine for themselves whether they want the drug legalized in their own states.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, failing drug tests
Although it has been seven years since the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the International Olympic Committee has plans to continue screening past competitors and medalists for performance-enhancing drugs. If it finds drugs in the samples that it collected before and during the 2008 Games, the IOC can still strip winners of their medals.
The IOC will also be testing samples from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Games in London, though those are of a lower priority, as the statute of limitations for drug-testing samples from athletes is 10 years.
The reason the IOC has waited so long to re-test the Beijing samples? Drug testing technology continues to improve over time, and newer tests may be able to detect drugs that six- and seven-year-old tests weren’t able to catch.
“Who knows what tests are going to be developed over the next two years?” asked IOC Medical Director Richard Budgett. “It makes a lot of sense to wait another couple of years for [testing the samples of] the majority.” Budgett estimates that the number of samples to be re-tested will be “in the hundreds.”
Some Olympians that were suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs back in 2008 — but were not caught — have already had their samples re-tested, and may continue to be re-tested until the statute of limitations runs out in 2018. (The statute of limitations was recently extended from eight years to 10, thanks to the World Anti-Doping Code.)
Those athletes that are likely to be competing in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games may also have their past samples more heavily scrutinized.
At least six athletes from the 2008 and 2012 Games have already been stripped of their medals since re-testing began. Samples from previous Olympics have been stored in a Swiss laboratory since 2004.
photo credit: BEIJING OLYMPICS via photopin (license)
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, employee drug screening, prescription drugs
At the end of February, Alaska officially legalized recreational use of marijuana for citizens that are over the age of 21. However, employers in the state — and in fact, across the country in other states in which recreational or medical cannabis is used — find that they are not sure how to handle employee drug tests when the drug in question is no longer illegal.
Alaska has a large number of jobs in oil, gas, transportation and similar fields, where safety is of the utmost importance, and so of course employers are concerned about employees arriving to work impaired. But it may take some individuals taking their cases to court before it is determined how far employers may go in reprimanding or even firing employees for marijuana use, when it is on the employees’ own time and is not affecting the ability to work.
Similar problems have arisen in Colorado, and at least one court case has found its way to the state Supreme Court. There is also a precedent in Alaska from a state Supreme Court case in 1982, that employees may be fired for failing drug tests provided there is a “nexus between the use and the work.”
Neither state, nor any of the others that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana, can take cues from federal law, as marijuana usage is still illegal at the federal level.
The legislation that allowed marijuana legalization to be voted on in Alaska — ballot measure 2 — stated that “[employers] have the right to make up their own rules about cannabis use.” Of course, it goes without saying that disciplinary action may be taken against an employee who shows up to work under the influence of any drug or alcohol.
“Alcohol is legal, but I imagine most jobs, if you show up drunk, you’re getting fired or disciplined,” said Jason Brandeis of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Justice Center.
The issue with drug testing for marijuana is that traces of cannabis can remain in one’s system for days or even weeks after use, so it can be difficult to determine when the drug was actually used.
One human resources consultancy has begun teaching classes for employers about how to create drug-testing policies that make it clear what company expectations are regarding drug use. Other employers think existing drug policies are still fine and should be left as-is.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy
With the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympics just a year and change away, participating countries are starting to think about testing for performance-enhancing drugs. One country in particular has struggled with conducting out-of-competition drug tests, relying solely on international IAAF drug-testing results.
Craig Reedie, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency and VP of the International Olympic Committee, spent some time in Jamaica recently to check on the status of the country’s rebuilt drug-testing program, after it was discovered in 2013 that, in the six months before the 2012 Olympic Games in London, no out-of-competition drug screening was conducted on any of the country’s athletes.
Jamaica has taken home 28 medals in track and field events since the 2004 Summer Games. In 2013, eight Jamaican athletes tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
The purpose of Reedie’s visit was to ensure that Jamaica is re-establishing an anti-doping program, so that potential Olympic athletes will be able to undergo the rigors of pre-Games drug tests in the months before Rio de Janiero. After its visit, the WADA and Reedie are pleased with the country’s efforts.
“I have to say, nobody could be anything other than hugely impressed by the amount of work that has been done,” Reedie said. “From the WADA point of view, we are proud of what you have achieved.”
As part of its improvements, the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission has improved its staffing and budgets, and the country has also passed an anti-doping law. It is considering blood drug tests for the future.
In other news, golf will be considered an Olympic sport in 2016 for the first time since 1904. The PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem, has announced that any player that is eligible to compete in the Olympics as of May 6, 2015, will be subject to random drug testing during these months leading up to the 2016 summer games.
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