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July 30. 2013 10:08PM

Derry considers instituting drug-free workplace policy

DERRY — The town may move forward with instituting a drug-free workplace policy, but it is unlikely the town will institute random drug tests for its municipal employees, according to assistant Town Administrator Larry Budreau.

Early this summer, the Town Council took no action on a petition from resident Michael Gill requesting the town establish a drug- and alcohol-free workplace policy that includes testing.
Gill noted that while there is pre-employment drug screening for the police department, there is no random testing. He said he also researched other nearby towns, such as Windham and Salem, which have more rigorous pre-employment drug testing for all employees.

Budreau noted that there are already a number of measures in place for hiring of many public safety and public works employees that include pre-employment drug testing as well as other testing measures through the state’s Department of Transportation.
He said it is unlikely the town would be able to implement random testing for public employees, yet added that he would be working with town department heads to provide the Town Council with further information at its Aug. 6 meeting. “That’s not to say that Mr. Gill is not bringing up some very vital and important topics of concern,” said Budreau.
Overall, Budreau said the town’s hiring practices are as tight as any municipalities in the state.

“The town doesn’t condone or tolerate having employees impaired by alcohol, illegal drugs or over-the-counter or prescription drugs,” he said. “I think most of our employees know that and it is mentioned in many of our collective bargaining agreements. But the clear outcome of Mr. Gill’s petition is that the town should publish a drug-free workplace policy.”

That policy would not entail testing, but would state that the town does not tolerate employees working under the effects of drugs or alcohol and that anyone who does would be subject to discipline.

With the town facing level-funded budgets and operating on lean budgets, Budreau said the town cannot afford to implement policies purely for the sake of implementing them. However, Budreau said he would meet with Gill to determine if there was a reason why Gill was concerned about the need for drug and alcohol testing.
“Instituting random drug and alcohol testing throughout the town is not really an option for us,” Budreau said, noting that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects public employees from testing without reasonable cause.

aswift@newstote.com


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