Magazine article Security Management

Drug Testing

Magazine article Security Management

Drug Testing

Article excerpt

According to a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, once an employer has established a comprehensive drug testing program, it is counterproductive for the courts to reinstate terminated employees based on a technical violation by the company.

The case involved an employee at an Exxon Corporation fuel terminal in Everett, Massachusetts. The company employs several truck drivers to supply petroleum to service stations and airports throughout New England.

Albert Smith, who had been employed by Exxon for many years, worked in a safety-sensitive job and was thus subject to random drug testing under the company's policy. He was responsible for loading, driving, and unloading a tractor-trailer that carried 12,000 gallons of highly flammable motor fuel.

In 1989, Smith signed a document confirming that he had read and understood the company's drug testing policy, which states in part: "Being unfit for work because of use of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited and is grounds for termination of employment."

On August 21, 1990, shortly after Smith reported for duty, Exxon managers announced that he would be given a drug test. Smith submitted to the test and returned to work. When the test results were obtained the next week, they indicated that Smith had cocaine in his bloodstream when he was tested. Though the test could not determine whether Smith was under the influence of cocaine while on the job, Exxon decided that Smith posed a threat to public safety and fired him.

Smith, like many of the company's drivers, was a member of the Esso Workers' Union, which represents many Exxon workers. …

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