Drug testing policies for county and city employees are relatively similar, and in some ways, the rules have changed since medical marijuana became a reality.
According to the city of Tahlequah’s Alcohol and Controlled Substance Testing Policy and Procedures, any employee found to be working while under the influence of an illegal substance or alcohol is subject to discipline, up to and including termination. That also includes possessing, selling, distributing on city property or driving city vehicles.
"The city of Tahlequah believes that it is in the best interest of the employees to prevent, treat and eliminate drug, alcohol, and chemical substance abuse in the work place,” the policy states.
According to Human Resources Director M'Lynn Pape, the policy falls in line with the Oklahoma Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act.
Those who apply for positions with the city undergo drug testing. Employees may also be tested when there is reasonable suspicion of substance abuse in the workplace, or if an accident has occurred while the employee is on the job.
“Post-accident drug or alcohol testing may be conducted on employees where there has been $500 or more damage to city property, or injury to an employee or third party, or where there exists reasonable suspicion that the accident, injury, or damage was a direct result of the employee’s use of drugs or alcohol,” the policy states.
According to the Cherokee County Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy, if an employee or another person has sustained an injury while at work — or if the county’s property has been damaged while at work — the county may require alcohol or drug testing of any employee involved.
The city calls for random drug testing, as provided by state and federal law, for any worker who operates a vehicle or equipment that requires a Commercial Driver's License or operates equipment in excess of 26,001 pounds; mechanic employees; any employee involved in the repair, operation or dispatching of vehicles and equipment; and police officers and other employees engaged in safety sensitive positions.
City employees and applicants are given a Drug and/or Alcohol Testing Consent Form to fill out, in which they confirm they understand refusal of a drug screen test, or a positive result on a drug test, is grounds for termination. Applicants affirm that the same situation could result in the withdrawal of any conditional offer of employment.
The city's policy states that Tahlequah has the right to take disciplinary action for a confirmed positive test result when "reasonable and appropriate under the totality of the circumstances."
According to Cherokee County policy, if officials have reasonable belief an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the county may require a drug or alcohol test.
“Circumstances causing the county to require testing of an individual may include, but are not limited to: drugs or alcohol on or about the individual’s person or individual’s vicinity; conduct on the individual’s part that suggest impairment or influence of drugs or alcohol; a report of drug or alcohol use while at work or on duty; information that an individual has tampered with drugs or alcohol testing at any time; negative performance patterns; or excessive or unexplained absenteeism or tardiness,” the policy states.
If an employee with the county tests positive, the individual will be given an opportunity to offer an explanation to a representative.
“Within 24 hours of receiving notice of a positive test, an individual may request a subsequent confirmation test of a sample,” the policy states. “The individual shall pay all costs of the subsequent confirmation test, unless the subsequent confirmation test reverses the findings of the challenged positive test.”
Employees with the city who test positive are not allowed to return to work until they can provide a verified negative test. They're allowed a maximum of 12 weeks to provide the negative "return to work" test.
The employee could be suspended, demoted, or terminated if a potential negative test is not provided within that 12 weeks.
City employees, such as active police officers, are not allowed to obtain medical marijuana cards. The city's policy for other employees does not mention the use of medical marijuana outside of work, but it does imply a worker could be terminated if he or she tested positive for any type of drug.
Some county employees are allowed to have marijuana cards, depending on circumstances.