County curtails employee drug tests

After a four-minute public hearing Tuesday attended by no one from the public, Hawaii County adopted new rules governing drug testing of successful job applicants.

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After a four-minute public hearing Tuesday attended by no one from the public, Hawaii County adopted new rules governing drug testing of successful job applicants.

The change removes two provisions: one that requires a prospective employee to pass a pre-employment controlled substance drug test and one that requires the candidate to attest that during the previous three years he or she was not convicted of any controlled substance-related offense.

The county, however, will continue screening employees defined as “safety-sensitive,” such as police officers and positions regulated by the federal Department of Transportation. That’s about 3 percent of county employees.

The rule change follows a settlement of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said the tests were unconstitutional. The ACLU argued that urinalysis testing reveals sensitive private medical information — such as whether an individual is diabetic, pregnant, is biologically male or female, has high cholesterol or has a sexually transmitted disease — and that the tests were not related to actual job requirements of a particular occupation.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Rebekah Taylor-Failor, who moved from Oregon to Kona to accept a job as a legal clerk in the Hawaii County Prosecutor’s Office, and the suit was settled after the county agreed to change its policies and pay $115,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

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County Human Resources Director Sharon Toriano said the rule change now goes to Mayor Billy Kenoi for signature. The new policy already was implemented, she said.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

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