New drug testing policy enacted
Published: Thursday, November 20, 2003
Updated: Sunday, May 17, 2009 19:05
A new drug and alcohol policy for faculty and staff was recently released by the university
.“The University of Southern Mississippi has a vital interest in maintaining a safe, healthy and efficient work environment,” the policy states. Being under the influence of an illegal drug or alcohol could pose risks for both the user and those around them.
“The university has the right to maintain a safe, healthy and efficient workplace for all of its employees, and to protect the university’s property, information, equipment, operations and reputation.”
The general policy on drug and alcohol use states: “The university has chosen to adopt a ‘no detectable level’ standard rather than a standard based upon perceived intoxication and/or levels above a certain permissible limit. No employee shall report to work or remain on duty with any detectable level of alcohol or illegal drugs in his or her body.”
The policy reminds employees that if they choose to use illegal drugs or habitually consume alcohol, even during non-work hours, they are likely to report to work with detectable levels of those substances in their bodies and will be in violation of the university’s drug and alcohol abuse policy.
Employees could be subject to disciplinary action or discharge if they are found through alcohol testing to be in violation of this policy or if they are found in possession of contraband, which includes drugs, alcohol, drug paraphernalia, weapons and pornographic materials.
All employees must sign a copy of this policy that certifies it has been received, read and understood. The university will conduct testing if there is reasonable suspicion of violation of this policy or a work-related accident, in which case the university reserves the right to require an employee to undergo a drug or alcohol test as a condition of continued employment. A test will also be conducted by neutral selection on a regularly scheduled basis for employees in designated departments, classifications or work groups.
“An employee’s consent to submit to drug or alcohol testing is required as a condition of employment and the employee’s refusal to consent may result in disciplinary action, including discharge,” the policy states. “Any employee who is tested in a ‘reasonable suspicion’ situation may be suspended pending receipt of written test results and other inquiries that may be necessary,” the policy states.
All testing will be paid for by the university and done by an independent licensed medical laboratory. The testing lab will retain samples from the test so that if an employee disagrees with the findings they can request a retest at the employee’s expense.
If an employee tests positive, they will be notified within five working days and will be offered a meeting to explain. The employee has 10 working days after receiving the notice of testing positive “to submit information explaining the test results and why they do not constitute a violation of this policy.” The purpose of the meeting will be to determine if there is any reason a positive finding could have resulted from some cause other than drug or alcohol use.
“During the review period and any resulting inquiries, the employee may be suspended from employment…(and) may use any available annual leave in order to remain in active pay status. If the employee has no annual leave or chooses not to use it, the suspension will be without pay.
All the information related to the test and the identity of the individual will be kept confidential unless otherwise required by law, overriding public safety concern or by authorization by the employee.
The policy says the university reserves the right to alter this policy at any time and for any reason, and employees are encouraged to periodically review the employee handbook and bulletin boards for changes in this policy.
In response to this policy, the executive committee of the USM chapter of the American Association of University Professors released a statement about their concern for the ramifications of this policy.
“The AAUP executive committee is very concerned about…the total lack of faculty input into its formulation,” said Frank Glamser, president of USM’s chapter of AAUP.
“We are very upset about that fact that there was no consultation with the faculty,” he said. “Rest assured that AAUP will be looking into this issue in consulting with our membership and the national headquarters.”
David Beckett, president-elect of the Faculty Senate, said he’d only first heard about the policy Tuesday night and hasn’t yet seen a copy of the policy.
Joan Exline, interim dean of the College of Health, said although she wasn’t personally involved, she knew it was under development.
“I knew it was under development because we were looking for something similar in the School of Nursing,” she said. All organizations have to have a drug and alcohol policy in place and USM’s policy may have been a matter of catching up.
The other deans could not be reached for comment.