Politics & Government

State cabinet to test workers suspected of drug, alcohol use on job

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Starting Aug. 15, the state Energy and Environment Cabinet will test employees whom a supervisor suspects of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on duty.

The cabinet will test the suspected state workers after a review and approval by cabinet management and human resources professionals. Supervisors and managers will be trained to identify employees who are suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Also tested will be those suspected of causing or contributing to a serious accident. The tests will involve urine, saliva or breath samples at no cost to the employees.

David Smith, executive director of the Kentucky Association of State Employees, said Wednesday he is “a little bit skeptical” about the policy.

“You could have a manager who has a problem with Susie and raises suspicions about drug use without solid information,” Smith said. “Procedures already are in place for the state to deal with employees suspected of drug or alcohol abuse. They try to talk to them and may bring in law enforcement and don’t train supervisors to identify employees.”

Smith said he was not aware of any other cabinet with such a policy. He noted that some state agencies, such as the corrections department, have programs to randomly test its hazardous duty and managers for illegal drug usage.

Energy and Environment Secretary Charles G. Snavely said in an Aug. 1 memo to the 1,450 or so cabinet workers that procedures will be put in place to ensure employees are not unfairly targeted.

He also said privacy will be respected and protected of employees who have legitimate prescriptions for medication. The cabinet has no plan, at this time, to implement programs for getting a job in the cabinet or random drug testing.

The secretary sent out to each worker in the cabinet an 8-page memo with details about the new drug testing program. It said any worker coming up with a positive test may be subject to corrective and disciplinary action, including dismissal.

Lesley Bilby, general counsel for the state Personnel Cabinet, said she was not aware of any other cabinet with a policy like the new one at Energy and Environment in which supervisors are trained to identify workers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Now, state supervisors have several options in dealing with employees who are not sober on the job, she said, ranging from sending them home in arranged transportation or calling in the police.

She said she was not aware that Kentucky state government has a major problem with drunk or drugged workers on the job, “but it can happen.”

Snavely said he wanted to get ahead of any problem with drugs in the workplace.

Cabinet spokesman John A. Mura said, “This policy was proactively put in place to support our existing policy statement on a drug-free workplace and to ensure the safety of our co-workers and the public.”

The cabinet has hired PremierTox Laboratory of Russell Springs to conduct the tests. Mura said the contract with the company runs from Aug 1 to June 1, 2018. Its cost, he said, is $7,152.50 plus lab fees. He did not have information about the price for lab fees.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics