Schoharie County supervisors may vote Friday on a new policy that would give department heads the ability to request drug or alcohol testing if they suspect that employees are under the influence.
The county’s Board of Supervisors is reviewing a “reasonable suspicion policy” that sets out steps to be taken if “there is reasonable suspicion that an employee’s job performance may be impaired by drugs or alcohol.”
The policy, if approved, would give department heads the power to request that employees who draw suspicion submit to a drug or alcohol test and, in the event of positive test results, allow a search of “all areas and property in which the county maintains control or joint control with the employee.”
County Attorney Mike West said the policy is one that’s been lacking for years but added that it’s not being developed as the result of any recent incidents.
He said he can recall only two instances in which there was suspicion a county employee was under the influence. One situation was unfounded, and the other was justified. He said he couldn’t elaborate because it’s a personnel issue.
“We realize that to do things the right way, we really ought to have some policy in place,” West said.
Summit Supervisor Harold Vroman, one of the resolution’s sponsors, said he believes establishing the policy would help shield the county from increased liability in the event of an accident involving an impaired employee using a county-owned vehicle.
“If somebody’s driving and something happens, then the county’s liable. I think it’s a good thing,” he said of the proposed policy.
The draft outlines several indicators considered sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion, including slurred or irregular speech, impaired judgment, the odor of alcohol on breath or body, uncoordinated walking or unusual behavior.
Other instances that would prompt drug or alcohol testing include an employee sustaining an injury or causing another employee to die or sustain an injury while on the job.
Once suspicion is established, the supervisor would be required to contact the county personnel officer and the president of the employee’s union.
Refusing to take a drug or alcohol test after suspicions are raised would result in a suspension. But the policy doesn’t call for immediate termination in the event of a positive result; employees can request assistance in lieu of disciplinary action.
The employees, after successfully completing treatment, can keep their job but must agree to random drug or alcohol testing for 12 months.
The board plans to take up a vote on the measure during this month’s board meeting.