(article written by David Ciullo, Career Management Associates)
Loosening the Reins on Maine’s Drug Testing Law
Most of you are familiar with Maine’s drug-testing statutes, and some of you might have gone through the rigmarole of getting a drug testing policy approved by the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL). Under Maine law, you cannot drug test employees without first having an MDOL-approved policy. Even with an approved policy, however, employers are subject to a host of limitations on when and how they can test employees, as well as what they can do with employees who test positive for a controlled substance. A change in the law could have a major effect on Maine employers that have employees who are covered under federal drug-testing requirements.
Existing law for federally covered employees
Until recently, individuals “subject to substance abuse testing under any federal law” were some of the few employees who could be drug tested in Maine without an MDOL-approved policy. Even those employees, however, were still protected by the rehabilitation requirements of Maine law if they tested positive for controlled substances and could not be terminated on the basis of a single positive test.
New legislation and what it means
New legislation could change the face of Maine’s drug-testing landscape. Legislative Document 1241, as originally proposed, would have lessened certain restrictions on when nonfederally covered employees could be drug tested, including after an accident or for probable cause. An amendment, however, changed the legislation to provide that “any employer subject to a federally mandated drug and alcohol testing program . . . and its employees” are exempt from Maine’s drug testing laws in their entirety. The bill, as amended, was signed into law by the governor on June 2, 2011, and took effect September 28, 2011.
Any Maine employer with federally covered employees is no longer required to follow Maine’s drug-testing statutes for any of its employees (federally covered or otherwise). Instead, it can test all of its employees under the federal standards. The amendment’s bill summary supports that interpretation and explains that the language was designed to allow an employer covered by federal requirements “to extend its [federal drug-testing] program to its entire workforce . . . [and] have the same substance abuse policy for all employees.”
The good news
Employers that have some employees subject to federal drug-testing requirements (e.g., commercial drivers) no longer have to have an MDOL-approved policy for the rest of their workforce (e.g., secretaries, janitors, office workers, and the like). Now you can test all employees and applicants under your federal policy. If you elect to take that route, you should review your federal drug testing policy, amend it to include all employees, and be sure to communicate to all workers the changes and the end of your old drug-testing policy. It’s important to remember that to avoid the MDOL drug-testing requirements you must have at least some employees on your payroll who require federal drug testing.