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Deadline extended: Maine Department of Labor Seeks Employer Feedback on Drug-Testing Statute

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August 18, 2014

Online survey deadline extended until August 22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 29, 2014 Media Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 621-5009

AUGUSTA—The Maine Department of Labor is soliciting the input of Maine businesses and other organizations regarding the current statute governing employee-testing for alcohol and drug use in the workplace. Businesses interested in participating in the survey must contact the department to receive a survey invitation; invitations are limited to one per business or organization.

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 is seeking 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.

"Employers are struggling with issues related to substance use and abuse in the workplace. Our labor laws should provide clarity and support safety for workers and customers," said Governor Paul R. LePage. “While the legislature chose not to make needed improvements to the law, employers are continuing to ask more and more questions. The department wants to make the right changes to ensure that employers and their customers, other employees and equipment are protected from dangerous situations. This survey will help them do that. I encourage all employers, whether they drug test or not, to participate in this survey.”

The department has solicited participation in the survey from all the employers with approved drug-testing policies, insurance providers and organizations with a relationship to the issue, including medical marijuana organizations and providers. Those interested in taking the survey should email Mark Dawson, mark.dawson@maine.gov, in the Bureau of Labor Standards. The online survey takes about 30 minutes to answer; it asks questions about different provisions of the law and asks for suggestions for changes. The survey deadline has been extended; it will be available online through August 22, 2014.

Maine law currently requires employers that want to provide a drug-free workplace by testing applicants and/or employees for substance abuse 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 has indicated that the mandated costs are prohibitive for many small- and medium-sized employers, which deters many employers from implementing a policy.

Maine’s substance-testing law is an outlier in a number of ways. Maine is the only state that does not allow probable-cause testing for the first accident; fully exempts employers who have just one employee subject to federal testing; and requires employers to pay for any EAP or uncovered drug rehab costs.

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/ .

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The survey deadline has been extended; it will be available online through August 22, 2014.