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City limits random drug testing program to 'safety sensitive' employees

Change comes as the city revamps its human resources policy, officials say.

— The city of Albany has changed its random drug testing policy; limiting it to "safety sensitive" employees only, city officials say.

Previously, all city employees were eligible to be randomly selected for drug testing quarterly. Under the new policy, only employees described by the city's department of human resources as "safety sensitive" -- police officers, firefighters, heavy equipment operators and the like, will be randomly drug tested, City Attorney Nathan Davis said.

Davis said that the change came as HR continues reviewing the city's personnel policy and is meant to decrease liability to lawsuits.

"It's just something done out of an abundance of caution," Davis said. "We want to make sure that we have a policy that is set on objective footing."

Davis said that all applicants for city employees will still be subject to a pre-employment background check and drug screening, but that, once hired, random drug testing will cease for all non safety-sensitive employees.

"Once you get on board, you can still be drug tested, if the supervisor believes or has evidence that the employee may be under the influence," Davis said. "Just the random testing would stop."

While random drug testing is common for most employees in the private sector, public sector employees like cities and municipalities have to tread a more cautious line in how they test their employees, City of Albany Human Resources Director Henry Cohen says.

"There are stricter standards in the public sector than in the private sector, particularly in regard to employee search and seizure," Cohen says. "We have to have a reasonable suspicion to test employees unless they're in safety sensitive positions or if they're required to by DOT like those who have CDL driving permits."

Cohen said he doesn't believe that changing the policy will lead to increased drug use by those employees who wouldn't be randomly tested under the new policy.

"No, because we do have a drug free workplace and we train our department heads and city supervisors to be able to spot the signs of drug use," Cohen said. "The moment that's noticed, then we can test for verification."

According to a 2010 report filed with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 22 million Americans over the age of 12 reported using illicit drugs within a month of being surveyed.

Of those 22 million, roughly one fourth were non-medical users of prescription pain medication, which typically aren't tested in pre-employment or random drug testing panels.

More than 77 percent of those surveyed said that they had used Marijuana within the last month, making it the most popular drug used by Americans 12 and older. Cocaine use was at its lowest levels since 2002.

Comments

Albanite 1 year, 11 months ago

Anyone involved with money, especially finance or accounting, should also be tested regularly along with each of the City Commissioners.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

EVERYBODY being paid with TAXPAYER MONEY should be random-tested. SIMPLE!

You have a "drug-free workplace" NOW because you test errbodddyy NOW. When you stop testing ERRBODDDYY, then you will have a "drug workplace". SIMPLE! Y'all just watch and see.

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Cartman 1 year, 11 months ago

Including judges, DA's, cops, code enforcement, food inspectors, managers, meter maids, school administrators, bus drivers, heavy equipment operators, and Carlton Fletcher.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

Carlton needs a couple more weeks off to clear out the Wannee Weed Fest residuals.......

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1muckalee 1 year, 11 months ago

Lets see, am I understanding the Albany City Commission correct ? Are they saying if they drug test everyone that, no one will be left working for the City. You sorry low life scum bags, the City Commission and Mayor should be the first one tested. Some one needs to lead this City out of self destruction, as we can see, it won't be the City Commissioners !!!!!!!!

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Justice4Moma 1 year, 11 months ago

Yeah,i hear Davis talking,but are his lips moving?What most of you in Office do not get is that there are more of you using drugs than you would like to admit.So you dont want to make everyone take one,am i right?Everyone above as said it well.No one gets a free pass.You all are spending taxpayers money like it is your own.So you all would be first on the list.Davis talks about higher standards,well he does nt have them,but he still needs a drug test,as do the rest.You are no better than the rest,really worse.

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waltspecht 1 year, 11 months ago

The Drug testing costs money that the City doesn't have. So to cut it back makes sense. I believe they should arrange for a group discount, and do everyone at one time within a 24 hour window at least once a year. There should be job openings after each test, until folks realize it is unacceptable. Or are they saying it is OK for some to use drugs, but not others?

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Cartman 1 year, 11 months ago

Good idea Walt. Another alternative, if cost is the primary motive for cutting back; then why not simply reduce the number of tests, but still keep it random? By excluding any group, you reduce the effectiveness of the program.

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