The Maine Department of Labor defended its proposal to overhaul workplace drug test regulations Friday, despite union criticisms the plan could undermine worker rights.
Maine labor officials have proposed new regulations that will make it easier for employers to drug test their employees. The state AFL-CIO, however, argues the proposal could undermine worker rights. Labor Department Director of Policy Julie Rabinowitz notes that while the proposal does make it easier for employers to drug test employees, it also establishes even more worker rights.
“The existing standard has a set of provisions weighed heavily in favor of the employees,” Rabinowitz told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Maine puts these barriers on employers which is why so few employers actually drug test their employees.”
The proposal allows workers to request a medical evaluation if they are caught with drugs in their system. The medical evaluations will help determine if the worker poses an actual threat and if there is a medical reason for them to be on drugs. Maine currently allows for medical marijuana, but patients have no recourse if they are caught at work using it.
“What we want to have is an impairment consultation,” Rabinowitz continued. “Having this independent medical review actually helps to protest both employer and employees.”
Maine currently makes it incredibly difficult for employers to drug test their employees — employers must be federally certified and cannot drug test employees based on one workplace accident. Rabinowitz notes employers are more likely just to fire the employee outright instead of drug testing them first, which is problematic for those not actually on drugs or who have a legal reason to be.
“The state statute where it stands doesn’t address this grey area,” Rabinowitz added. “The way it works now is very difficult for employers.”
Rabinowitz believes the union may have misinterpreted what the proposal is actually intended to do. She hasn’t had the chance to address the issue with unions, so it’s not yet clear whether it will reconsider its position. Maine AFL-CIO Executive Director Matt Schlobohm has said there has to be a better way to address the issue to the current drug test laws.
“We think there are ways to improve the statue in small ways, address medical marijuana, make some modernizations in it,” Schlobohm told the local ABC affiliate on Thursday. “But we’re not interested in undermining worker’s basic protections in the workplace.”
The state AFL-CIO did not respond to a request for additional comment by TheDCNF.
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