January 16, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 16, 2015 Media Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 621-5009
Report highlights areas for potential reform
AUGUSTA—The Maine Department of Labor has issued the results of its recent employer survey about the state’s regulations regarding workplace drug testing. During the summer of 2014, the department solicited the input of Maine businesses and other organizations regarding the current statute governing employee-testing for alcohol and drug use in the workplace. The report is available at http://www.maine.gov/labor/labor_stats/publications/substanceabuse .
“The Department has been proactive in seeking feedback to reform the drug-testing statute in light of frequent workplace-safety concerns raised over the medical marijuana law and the movement toward municipal ‘legalization’,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “This survey will help the department make the right changes to ensure that employers and their customers, other employees and equipment are protected from dangerous situations.”
During the last legislative session, the department proposed LD 1669, “An Act To Standardize and Simplify the Process for Employers to Provide a Drug-free Workplace,” which did not pass; however, during the discussions, a number of issues were raised concerning drug testing in the workplace. As a result, the department sought feedback to formulate future changes to the law and its rules to address employer and employee concerns. Employers wanting to enact a drug-testing program must have a policy approved by the Maine Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Standards, with the exception of federally covered employees.
The department solicited participation in the survey from all employers with approved drug-testing policies, insurance providers and organizations with a relationship to the issue, including medical marijuana organizations and providers, as well as other businesses and interested parties. As a result, 247 organizations responded to the survey.
Eighty-five of the surveyed organizations have not experienced drug-related incidents in their workplaces, although another 65 of the survey participants indicated they had not had an incident, but expected to have one at some point in the future and 81 had had a substance-related incident in the workplace, to include property and equipment damage, injury to the worker, and frightening situations such as violent threats. About a quarter of the substance-abuse related incidents resulted in no damages but the impaired worker needed to be escorted home due to incapacitation, and the same number resulted in injury to the impaired worker.
Maine law currently requires employers that want to provide a drug-free workplace by testing applicants and/or employees for substance use to develop and file a drug-testing policy with the Bureau of Labor Standards. The bureau reviews this policy to ensure compliance with state laws and rules before officially approving the policy, which then allows the employer to put it into effect. Prior feedback, which is largely supported by the results of this survey, has indicated that some of the mandated requirements are cost prohibitive for many small- and medium-sized employers, which deters many employers from implementing a policy. Several employers suggested alternative testing programs and policies in the survey feedback, which the department is considering as it proposes legislation to reform the existing statute.
While more than half of other states have drug testing statutes and regulations, Maine’s existing substance-testing law is an outlier in a number of ways. Maine is the only state that requires employers with more than 20 full-time employees to pay for employee assistance programs; fully exempts employers who have just one employee subject to federal testing; does not allow probable-cause testing for the first accident; and requires that the costs of drug rehabilitation be equally divided between the employer and employee. Survey results provide guidance on possible changes to these regulations.
More information on Maine’s workplace drug-testing laws is available on the Department of Labor’s website at http://www.maine.gov/labor/laborlaws/substanceabuse_testing .