New employees in northern Colorado's Larimer County will be subject to mandatory drug testing following recent changes to the county's substance abuse prevention policy, according to the Loveland Reporter-Herald. Anyone offered a regular or limited-term job with the county will be required to comply with the pre-employment screening
, as will most workers offered temporary positions.
The changes to the policy also clarify that employees must submit to additional testing if a manager has reason to suspect drug use. Currently, the county tests about one-third of its staff - mostly those who will be routinely driving trucks and operating other heavy machinery, such as road and bridge department employees, as well as some staff in the alternative sentencing, community corrections and sheriff's department. The county expects to spend approximately $14,000 annually on the screening, which costs about $40 per individual test. According to Human Resources Department representative John Gamlin, eight county employees have tested positive for drug use within the past six years, and there is some debate about whether this warrants the expenditures associated with a mandatory screening program. However, costs are also incurred by defending the county against possible legal challenges that may arise from dismissing an employee who is suspected of drug use, and supervisors have to take time to go through the disciplinary process, Gamlin told the newspaper. The policy will not treat the medical and recreational uses of marijuana any differently, according to the news source. Although a Colorado state law permits the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the same legislation gives employers the right to ban use of the drug on the job. Officials from Johnson County in northern Wyoming were considering adopting a similar policy of mandatory employee screening, but decided against it at a recent county commission meeting, according to Sheridan Media. The county had wanted to instate a random drug and alcohol testing policy, but chose not to pursue this after the county attorney determined that it was illegal to test government employees. The county will continue to implement pre-employment screening and random drug testing of road and bridge department workers and others who drive county-owned vehicles and equipment, according to the news source.