County adopts new drug and alcohol test policy

JAMES BEATY | Staff photoPittsburg County commissioners have adopted a revised drug and alcohol testing policy for county employees, effective Sept. 16. Pictured, from left: District 3 Commissioner Ross Selman, District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith and District 3 Commissioner Charlie Rogers.

A new drug and alcohol testing policy for Pittsburg County employees goes into effect Sept. 16 — with several changes included in the policy’s revisions.

“Employees and applicants who test positive for marijuana or its components may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination under the county’s Marijuana Use Possession or Impairment Policy,” the revised policy states. 

But the revised policy includes an exception for some county employees and job applicants.

“For employees and applicants with a valid Oklahoma Medical Marijuana license and who are not in safety-sensitive positions, no employment action will be taken based solely upon a positive test for marijuana components or metabolites” — with metabolite referring to a byproduct that remains in the body much longer than the original drug.

The next provision concerns county employees who hold, or are applying for, what is considered a safety sensitive position:

“Any applicants who apply for positions designated by the county as safety-sensitive are not eligible for hiring if they test positive for marijuana components of metabolites.

The revised policy then addresses current employees in safety sensitive positions:

“Any employees who hold positions designated by the county as safety-sensitive are subject to discipline up to and included termination if they test positive for marijuana components or metabolites. These safety-sensitive prohibitions apply to applicants and employees who have valid Oklahoma medical marijuana licenses.”

Currently, Pittsburg County has 227 employees, County Clerk Hope Trammell said Tuesday.

Pittsburg County Commission Chairman/District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith said county employees in safety sensitive positions cover a number of areas, including those working on road and highway projects.

“It includes all highway groups, including my clerk — he’s a dispatcher,” Smith said.

In addition to all three highway departments in the three county commission districts, all employees of the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office work in safety sensitive positions, said Smith.

All employees of the Pittsburg County Animal Shelter are considered in safety sensitive positions as well, Smith said, noting they often are in charge of administering medication to animals.

Employees of the Pittsburg County Assessor’s Office who work in the field and drive as part of their regular duties are also considered as safety sensitive workers, he said.

What about county employees who do not work in what is deemed as a safety sensitive position but may hold a medical marijuana license?

Smith said he does not know how many employees that may include. He said commissioners are prohibited from asking all employees if hey hold a license to use medical marijuana.

“We can’t ask them if they’re not in a safety sensitive area,” he said.

District 1 Commissioner Charlie Rogers and District 3 Commissioner Ross Selman joined Smith in updating the county policy during their regular meeting this week.

Revisions were based on a template supplied and recommended for adoption by the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma, with guidance from the group’s law firm.

The term “controlled substances in the drug-testing policy refers to six drugs or drug classifications: They include marijuana metabolites, cocaine metabolites, amphetamines, opiate metabolites, phencyclidine, also known as PCP.; and  opioids, including hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone.

The resolution passed by commissioners states drug and alcohol testing is required or all drivers of commercial vehicles which require an operator with a commercial drivers license, which is a federal regulation issued through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

It also states policy regarding when county employees are prohibited from using medical marijuana, even if they do posses a license from the state authorizing its use.

“County prohibits all employees — including those with valid Oklahoma medical marijuana licenses — from using or possessing marijuana while on the county’s premises or during the hours of an employee’s employment,” the resolution states.

“This prohibition against marijuana use or possession applies to any of the county’s properties or work sites, including exterior areas, parking locations, personal vehicles or county vehicles and during any hours of employment when when an employee is performing work or providing services.”

The prohibition against the use of medical marijuana by county employees while on-duty also applies to “customer, client or other third-party locations or premises where an employee is performing work or providing services.”

“If an employee’s hours of employment include transportation or travel, then the prohibition against marijuana use or possession applies to that transportation or travel time, the resolution continues.

The resolution prohibits all county employees — including those with valid Oklahoma medical marijuana licenses — from being under the influence or impaired by marijuana during any hours of employment, regardless of location.

“An employee is under the influence or impaired when marijuana use adversely affects ability to perform a job, interact with others, exercise judgment and/or work safely,” the resolution states.

“Violation of this policy may result in discipline up to and including termination.”

The revised policy  includes changes regarding post-accident testing if a county employee’s conduct could have contributed to an accident while at work resulting in an injury to the employee or another person. It also covers accidents resulting in damage to property or equipment. An employee whose conduct could have contributed to the accident could be required to undergo a drug or alcohol test.

County employees who may be required to undergo random or periodic drug and alcohol testing include:

• Law enforcement officers

• Those with drug interdiction reponsibilities

• County employees authorized to carry firearms

• Those who perform activities which directly affects the safety of others

• County employees working for a public hospital, including any hospital operated by a municipality, county or public trust.

• Those working with in direct contact with inmates in Department of Corrections custody or who work in direct contact with juvenile delinquents or children in need of supervision in custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

County employees as well as job applicants who test positive for marijuana or its components under the revised county policy “will be required to establish they hold a valid Oklahoma medical marijuana license,” the revised policy states.

Any county employee or job applicant who refuses the test can be subject to termination on the case of an employee or to not being hired in the case of an applicant.

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