Town to Review Drug Policy for Employees

The Derry Town Council will take no immediate action on a petition from a citizen asking it to institute drug testing for all employees and a no-tolerance policy for the workplace, but it will review the policies it has with an eye toward doing what’s best for Derry.

Lawrence Budreau, human resources director and assistant town administrator, gave a report at the July 9 Town Council meeting in response to resident Mike Gill’s petition, which had been delivered to the Council June 18.

Budreau reviewed the current policies, including:
• Police Department: a pre-employment physical, psychological and drug test;
• Fire Department: a Department of Transportation-compliant process including pre-employment drug screening, random drug screening, post-accident drug screening and screening when there is “reasonable suspicion” of abuse; and
• Public Works: a menu of testing for all those who hold a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), including pre-employment screening, random screening, post-accident screening and “reasonable suspicion” screening.

Budreau said policies had been developed in accordance with Chapter 5 of the town Administrative Code, Section 8 of the Town Charter, and “best practices.” These policies cover three of the town’s major departments, Budreau said. The remaining department is Administrative, and there the hiring process is “rigorous,” involving hiring panels, thorough background checks, and FBI criminal records checks.

“We are in good shape there, as tight as any municipality in the state,” Budreau said.
But the town cannot condone employees using drugs, Budreau added. While most of the employees know that, his take-away from Gill’s petition was that the town draft and post an official drug-and alcohol-free workplace policy. “I suggest we draft it over the next several weeks,” Budreau told the Council.

In Budreau’s opinion, instituting random drug testing is not an option. He pointed out that the Fourth Amendment requires “reasonable suspicion” for search and seizure. He told Councilors that for universal drug screening of employees, they would have to factor in “privacy, philosophy and cost.”

Budreau reminded the Council that their response to Gill’s petition is discretionary. “I recommend you take no action at this point, but leave it to the purview of the Town Administrator and department heads,” he said. He also recommended that the Council ask Town Administrator John Anderson to create a draft statement, and report back to the Council at its Aug. 6 meeting.

Budreau later wrote in a letter to Gill, “The Council chose not to formally act upon the petition; rather they accepted my suggestion that the Town’s employment process and consideration of drug testing policies appropriately falls within the scope of the Town Administrator’s responsibility. John Anderson asked me to follow through, make a recommendation, and report to the Council on Aug. 6.” Budreau asked Gill to meet with him and Anderson in the near future to discuss Gill’s concerns.