The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 19, 2014

City committee updates worker drug, alcohol policies

By Amy Kent
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — Employees of the city of Clinton may see some changes coming to their current drug and alcohol policy — a policy that hasn’t been altered in 24 years.

During an Internal Operations Committee meeting Tuesday, City Administrator Jessica Kinser notified the committee, occupied by City Council members Tom Determann, Lynn McGraw and Grant Wilke, that the policy needed to be updated because of a multitude of changes in drug and alcohol use and employment since it was introduced in 1989.

“We kind of jokingly call it the Miami Vice-era drug policy,” Kinser said. “It’s very lenient and allows for multiple opportunities for failed drug tests.”

Because of that, Kinser enlisted the help of Bill Judge with FightReady, a company that develops federal and state drug-testing policies and procedures, to revise the city’s out-of-date protocol.

To simplify what the city will require, Kinser and Judge attempted to create a policy that would represent all city workers. However, because of federal regulations for safety-sensitive positions, like transit employees or CDL- licensed employees, the committee members were required to adopt three separate policies Tuesday.

The biggest change that Kinser highlighted in all three of the proposals was the implication of random drug or alcohol testing for employees by using the reasonable suspicion method.

“We’ve already started training our supervisors on reasonable suspicion,” Kinser said. “If you (an employee) are exhibiting signs of alcohol or drug abuse while on the job, right before start of duty or right after start of duty, then we have the ability to send you in for a test as long as there is that reasonable suspicion.”

Department heads and supervisors will have the authority to require random samplings from any employee who exhibits the signs or evidence of drug or alcohol use during work hours.

If a sampling is requested and comes back positive for alcohol or drug use, that employee could face termination or administrative suspension but neither are guaranteed according to the policy.

The only situation where termination is definite is if an employee of the city is charged with the possession of or trafficking in illicit or inappropriate drugs, something Wilke questioned the legality of.

“(With someone) being charged but not being convicted, can you really do that (terminate) without having some repercussions?” asked Wilke.

According to Kinser, employees working for the city are at-will employees so they have the right to do whatever they choose, but will face repercussions to those choices.

And because a situation in which someone is charged with possession or trafficking means the police have become involved, it is then outside of an administrative realm in terms of the rest of the policy.

“It’s gone into the criminal world at that point,” Kinser said.

Other additions made to the current city alcohol and drug policy that were highlighted Tuesday were post-accident and post-incident based alcohol and drug testing.

The new policy states that an accident resulting in damage to any property including equipment that exceeds $1,000 will prompt drug testing no later than 32 hours after the accident occurred and alcohol testing no later than eight hours after.

In the same light, any sworn law enforcement officer who has discharged a weapon in the line of duty also will be required to submit to a drug or alcohol test as soon after the incident as possible.

And for any employee struggling with alcohol or substance abuse, the city also offers an anonymous counseling assistance program through Genesis Health Systems that was utilized by 11 percent of employees in 2013.

“To me the most important thing in regard to drug and alcohol use and abuse is knowing that we have an employee assistance program that is free and anonymous,” Kinser said. “So it’s good that people are utilizing the service that extends well beyond drug and alcohol counseling.”

With the unanimous recommendation from the Internal Operations Committee, the drug and alcohol policy will now move on to the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday and from there to the City Council for final approval.