Posted in drug screening, drug testing for welfare recipients, drug tests, welfare drug testing
Three years ago, Maine passed legislation that would require all welfare recipients to undergo drug tests in order to receive benefits. However, in all this time, the drug-testing program was not rolled out, as the state’s attorney general had yet to approve the plan.
However, in mid-January, the attorney general finally approved the program, provided the Department of Health and Human Services make some changes to the plan. One such change requires applicants of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program fill out a questionnaire that may help determine if applicants are likely to be taking illegal drugs.
The questionnaire is an effort to avoid the types of lawsuits that have been plaguing welfare programs in other states. (Florida’s welfare policy was rejected outright in a federal appeals court after all welfare applicants were required to pay for their own drug tests. The Maine drug tests are expected to cost $62 per person, presumably paid for by the DHHS.)
The questionnaire will ask applicants if they have been convicted of any drug-related felonies; if they have, they will be required to undergo drug tests. If an applicant fails the drug test, he or she may still be eligible for welfare if they get assistance through a rehabilitation or substance abuse program.
Welfare drug testing programs have not proven to be very effective. Other states that have unveiled similar programs — such as Tennesee and Utah — have found that only 1 to 2 percent of those applying for welfare benefits have tested positive for illegal substances.
Maine’s DHHS plans to begin drug-testing welfare applicants, but is not sure when they will get started.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, employee drug screening
Northern Ireland’s government has just approved a new drug-testing technology that the country’s Roads Safety Minister hopes will prevent residents from driving under the influence of drugs.
The portable device, called Drugwipe, can detect cocaine or marijuana in the body. It utilizes small amounts of saliva, and produces results in eight minutes or fewer. Drugwipe analyzes the saliva and indicates the presence of drugs via lines on the device that resemble those on a pregnancy test.
U.K. law enforcement intends to use Drugwipe on traffic stops when officers suspect drivers of operating their vehicles under the influence. If the test proves positive for drug usage, the driver will be taken to the police station for a blood sample.
“Those who get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs not only put their own lives at risk, but also those of innocent pedestrians, motorists and their passengers,” said Policing Minister Mike Penning.
A device by the same name is used in the United States in some police departments, prisons, and drug-testing facilities. That device is said to determine the presence of not only cannabis and cocaine, but also methamphetamines, amphetamines, opiates and other drugs by testing saliva, sweat, or even vehicle surfaces. Drugwipe is said to be more than 95 percent accurate in detecting the presence of illegal drugs.
Image via Alcolock
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drugs in the workplace, NFL drug testing
Under Minnesota’s Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (DATWA), having an employee confess to using drugs prior to completing a drug test does not have the same employment consequences as that same person actually having a urine drug test turn up positive.
This was recently brought up in court after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson told a drug-testing company employee that he “smoked a little weed” prior to completing a drug test, which was required as part of his bond after he was arrested in Texas.
According to the National Law Review, people who are required to take drug tests — either randomly for a job or as a condition for some prior arrest — often confess to doing drugs before they even complete testing. Minnesota employers are allowed to respond differently to an admission of drug usage than to a positive drug test.
DATWA makes no exceptions for confessions on company property; the employer may immediately terminate an employee that admits to using illegal substances, if that is consistent with company policy. In that situation, the employer is not responsible for ensuring the employee gets any treatment for a drug addiction.
However, if a Minnesota employee’s drug test comes back positive for the first time, the employer may not fire its employee, and instead must allow the employee to go through a rehab or treatment program. (After that program is completed, any positive drug tests may be grounds for termination.)
Employers should be aware of state laws when it comes to drug testing employees and what they are legally bound to do if drug tests come back positive. Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont have similar laws to Minnesota’s DATWA, in that the first positive drug test is not grounds for termination; Iowa employers have a responsibility to the employee after the first positive alcohol test, but not after a positive drug test.
The National Law Review encourages employers to proceed with drug testing as usual regardless of whether an employee has confessed to drug usage prior to testing.
Posted in drug screening, EEOC, Federal law
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed two separate lawsuits in October, both of which are for alleged discrimination against employees with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses must provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees and applicants, and businesses may not discriminate against those with disabilities during the hiring process.
Suits were filed against FedEx Ground in North Carolina, as well as a Wal-Mart in Maryland, for alleged violations to the ADA.
In the case of FedEx Ground, the EEOC claims that reasonable accommodations were not made for employees that are deaf or hard-of-hearing, as employees were not provided with a sign-language interpreter or closed captions during training materials and videos. The EEOC also claims that alternative safety equipment — that which uses flashing lights or vibrations instead of beeps or other sounds — was not provided to these employees.
A FedEx spokesperson denied these allegations, which were made after a mandatory EEOC tour of the package-sorting facility. “FedEx Ground is committed to fair and equal treatment of all employees and believes the claims made by the EEOC are misleading and not founded in law,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart provided a vague defense for its actions when it withdrew a job offer for a sales associate that could not submit to a urine drug test due to late-stage renal cancer. The prospective employee offered to submit to a different type of drug test, such as a blood test, and was told that Wal-Mart’s corporate office would not agree to a different test. The job offer was withdrawn when urine test results were not available within 24 hours of the job offer.
The EEOC filed suit against the store, and Wal-Mart agreed to pay the applicant $72,500, as well as train that store’s managers on accommodating applicants with disabilities.
Similar suits have also been filed against a Maryland Kmart and a Texas rehabilitation center for not making reasonable drug-testing accommodations for those with renal cancer.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, drugs in the workplace, employee drug screening, prescription drugs
Recently, the Georgia Council on Alcohol and Drugs hosted an event called “Drugs Don’t Work” in an attempt to discourage illegal drug usage in the workplace, particularly because 70 percent of the state’s illegal drug users can be found among its employed. The most commonly abused drugs? Prescription medications.
The Council is now providing incentives for businesses that implement drug-testing policies, as well as discouraging substance abuse by requiring that drug tests turn up clean in order for employees to maintain their jobs.
If Georgia businesses implement drug-testing policies — as well as programs educating and training employees about drug use and abuse, and counseling referral programs — they may be certified by the Council to receive a 7.5 percent discount on their Worker’s Compensation insurance.
This discount would be beneficial in more than one way; employers would not only pay less for the insurance, but by implementing education programs, they have a smaller chance of actually having to pay out Worker’s Compensation, as it is likely that sober employees, and those around them, would be at less risk for workplace accidents.
According to the Council, there is no one particular occupation or demographic that is most highly affected by drug use in the workforce, and that drug abuse can happen in any job.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing
Former U.S. Treasury Department employee and current California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari had an interesting idea. Lawmakers are constantly passing legislation about who should be background checked, drug tested, and investigated — in fact, California’s current Proposition 46, regarding drug testing for doctors, will be voted on in November — so why shouldn’t the legislators themselves be required to pass an annual drug test?
Kashkari expressed this sentiment during a stint as guest host on the Mark Larson radio show, though he said he thought that many lawmakers would not be okay with such a mandate.
“I think we should drug test legislators. Every statewide officeholder, and everyone in the Assembly and the Senate. Why don’t we just have an annual mandatory drug test?” Kashkari said on the air.
The candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Ron Nehring, also participated in the radio program, and Kashkari’s question came up during a discussion about legalizing marijuana, which current Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom supports. Both Nehring and Kashkari spoke about the possibility of proposing drug testing for legislators, though Nehring evaded a question about whether he specifically would be willing to participate in a drug test alongside Lt. Governor Newsom, by changing the direction of the conversation back to Proposition 46.
Kashkari was right about the legislator feedback regarding his comments; a spokesman for Democratic state Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg said, “The only thing tripping is Mr. Kashkari’s desperate campaign.”
Later on, after his comments were publicly aired, Kashkari claimed that he was joking, and quipped that IQ tests should be required instead.
photo credit: Un ragazzo chiamato Bi via photopin cc
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, pre-employment drug tests
A Chicago alderman has introduced a new ordinance that would require pre-employment drug testing — and subsequent annual drug testing — for all ride-sharing companies’ drivers within the city. Councilman Roderick Sawyer introduced the ordinance in September, after a drug-test mandate was eliminated from the ride-sharing ordinance that the Windy City passed in May.
The City Council was divided on May’s legislation, however. When the drug-testing language was removed from a previous ride-sharing bill, Sawyer felt he had to vote against it.
“We want to make sure our constituents are safe and have a safe ride,” said Sawyer. “It should have stayed in.”
The new ordinance requires that any ride-share driver pass pre-employment drug testing prior to receiving a license to carry passengers, as well as prior to renewing existing licenses.
Drug tests would also be required to be administered by a City Hall-approved company, under the ordinance. Companies and drivers that do not comply would be subject to per-incident fines up to $1,000, as well as license revocation for at least a year.
Chicago and other Illinois cities are able to create their own ordinances for ride-share companies after Governor Pat Quinn vetoed legislation in August, which would have placed stricter regulations on ride-share companies state-wide.
No timeframe has been set for voting on the new ordinance.
California also recently attempted to pass legislation mandating pre-employment drug testing for drivers; the bill did not pass.
photo credit: Armando G Alonso via photopin cc
Posted in drug and alcohol testing, drug screening
The Federal Railroad Administration has proposed the expansion of its drug and alcohol testing regulations for railroad workers, particularly “maintenance-of-way” (MOW) employees, in order to protect its workers and public safety.
If the new policy is passed, all railroad employees, contractors and subcontractors who perform maintenance tasks — including inspecting, installing and repairing railroad tracks and electric track systems — will be subject to new drug-and-alcohol screening guidelines. Those who serve as flagmen will also be screened.
Since 1991, the U.S. Department of Transportation has been required to ensure transportation agencies employ federally mandated drug and alcohol testing programs. But maintenance-of-way employees, who may be contractors to the railroad and not specifically employees of the department, may not have been required to undergo the same kinds of testing.
The FRA wants to set its minimum testing percentages at 50% of all employees each year for drug testing, and 25% for alcohol testing each year. Employees, contractors and subcontractors would be selected at random for screening, though if a MOW worker is behaving suspiciously, he or she may also be subject to drug or alcohol testing.
Not only do these workers put themselves at risk of danger from being struck by moving trains, but their jobs require clear heads in order to prevent the rails and cars from becoming a public danger for railroad passengers and other vehicles that may be crossing or passing near the tracks.
It is estimated that, over a 20-year period, the new proposed regulations would cost approximately $24 million to cover the MOW employees and contractors. But the policy is expected to save the transportation industry more than $115 million in injury, property damage and fatality liability charges.
Posted in drug screening, drug tests
Rio de Janeiro used to have an accredited drug-testing lab. But it was shut down in 2013 by the World Anti-Doping Agency and lost its accreditation due to “repeated failures,” including too many false positives on athlete drug tests.
During the recent soccer World Cup, which also took place in Rio, Brazil had to ship its samples for drug screening to Switzerland for testing. That process cost FIFA approximately $250,000.
Meanwhile, the 2016 Olympics will be hosted in Rio de Janeiro as well. The Games are just two short years away, and the country still finds itself without a drug-screening lab that has been accredited by WADA and deemed suitable for screening the athletes that will be arriving from all over the world.
If Brazil cannot get its anti-doping act together, it may be forced to ship testing samples to another lab again. If so, it is likely to cost the astronomically more than it did for the World Cup, as only 800 players were tested for drugs during the soccer tournament. More than 10,000 athletes are expected to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
There are only 32 WADA-accredited labs in the world.
Brazil’s lab was closed after it found that .81% of tests fell outside the normal substance limits; its samples were tested at a separate lab and found to be incorrect. False positives on drug tests can destroy athletes’ reputations, not to mention keep them from competing and cause them to lose the sponsorships that are so common at the summer and winter Games.
photo credit: tochis via photopin cc
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, employee drug screening
Utah-based SkyWest Airlines was fined earlier this month after allegedly informing the Federal Aviation Administration of problems related to its drug testing policies over the previous two years. The FAA fined SkyWest $295,750 for the violations, in accordance with the Department of Transportation’s drug-testing policies.
SkyWest allegedly received the fine for three different types of violations: the first being that more than 150 employees were left out of the airline’s random drug testing pool; second, due to two employees failing drug tests and still being hired for “safety sensitive” roles; and finally, the airline requiring post-accident drug tests for non-safety-sensitive personnel on three separate occasions, unnecessarily.
SkyWest expressed its disappointment in the FAA’s decision to impose fines since the airline informed the FAA directly of the problems. In an e-mail statement, SkyWest airline spokesperson Marissa Snow said, “We are extremely disappointed with the FAA’s decision to impose a penalty for a self-disclosure. SkyWest Airlines maintains a robust drug and alcohol testing program for all safety-sensitive employees, and is committed to maintaining a drug-free workplace.”
SkyWest pilots fly planes for four other airlines as well, including Delta Airlines and American Airlines. SkyWest and the FAA are expected to meet sometime this month to review the violations.
Photo credit: cliff1066™ via photopin cc
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