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LOS ALAMITOS : Drug-Abuse Policy Updated by Council

August 25, 1994|BERT ELJERA

City officials will be required to report the names of city employees who have been convicted of drunk driving and drug offenses to the federal government under an updated substance abuse policy approved by the City Council this week.

The council adopted the policy Monday to toughen an 8-year-old city regulation that also requires employees suspected of drug abuse to submit to mandatory drug testing.

Assistant City Manager Gerard Goedhart said that federal law now requires cities to report employee drug convictions in order to remain eligible for grants from federal agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation.

The reporting requirement is part of the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, which mandates the development of drug and alcohol policies by local agencies receiving federal funds.

In addition to the federal reporting requirement, the city updated its policy on mandatory drug testing to include more details on how the tests are conducted and who conducts the tests.

Otherwise, the policy is substantially the same as the one adopted in 1986, Goedhart said. In eight years, he added, no employee has been ordered to take tests or dismissed from a job because of drug violations.

All new hired workers must take drug tests as part of their physical examinations, he said.

The updated drug-testing policy has been approved by the city's various employee groups and will take effect immediately. It will apply to full- and part-time employees, he added.

The drug tests will include breath, urine and blood analyses to check for use of illegal drugs--such as cocaine and marijuana--or alcohol.

Employees face possible dismissal after testing positive for drug and alcohol use. First-time offenders could keep their jobs despite proven use of alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines or barbiturates if they enter a drug-abuse or alcohol-treatment program. A second offense could lead to dismissal.

But those who tested positive for cocaine, heroin, methadone or other more serious drugs could be dismissed on a first offense.

The city manager may call the police to search an employee's desk or locker, but only with the consent of the employee and only if a representative of the union to which the employee belongs is present.

Under the policy, an employee involved in a fatal accident, or one who was using a city vehicle during any accident, must submit to a drug and alcohol test, Goedhart said.

Drug and alcohol tests are confidential and will be kept in files separate from regular employee folders.

However, the test results may be used during court hearings, labor disputes between the city and the employee, for diagnosis and treatment and if the employee consents to release the information.

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