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May 25, 2013

Essex County discusses random drug testing for all

ELIZABETHTOWN — Some towns do random drug testing of all employees, but for Essex County, only heavy-equipment operators and bus drivers are in the target group, so far.

The County Board of Supervisors Personnel and Administration Committee recently discussed whether all county employees should be included in that pool for drug and alcohol tests. The members ended up deciding more information was needed.

Supervisor Margaret Bartley (D-Elizabethtown) said they are starting random drug testing of employees in her town and wondered how the county did it. But County Personnel Officer Monica Feeley said they only test holders of commercial driver’s licenses (CDL), at the county level.

A change would require the consent of the Civil Service Employees Association chapter that represents county workers, County Manager Daniel Palmer said, because such testing is not in the present union contract.

“We do only CDLs. If you’re going to do something different, it requires mandatory negotiations with the union. If it goes beyond federal law, you have to negotiate it.”

‘SLIPPERY SLOPE’

Federal law requires random drug and alcohol testing of anyone who holds a commercial driver’s license. Such licenses are required for truck and bus drivers and those who run heavy equipment, like bulldozers and backhoes.

It could be expensive to test everyone who works for the county, Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) said. The county has about 650 employees; fewer than 100 have commercial driver’s licenses.

Besides cost, there’s another problem with creating a larger test pool, Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield) said.

“If it’s random and you put everyone in the pool, the people who need to be tested may never get called.”

“We’re headed down a slippery slope (if all are tested),” Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said. 

He said the state doesn’t do random drug testing of all employees, either.

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