July 15, 2020

Drug Testing Issues During the Current COVID-19: Updated July 6

Cities, as employers of Department of Transportation (DOT) employees (i.e. those regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration), are required to comply with the drug and alcohol training and testing requirements as set out in federal law. The current situation involving COVID-19 has made following these requirements, as well as other drug testing policies contained in employee handbooks, difficult to say the least.

On March 23, 2020, DOT issued guidance on handling testing during this pandemic and on July 6, 2020 the guidance was updated again. The DOT recognizes the difficulty in finding testing resources in many areas; however, employers must continue to follow the regulations which include selecting drivers at the required rate of 50% of their average number of driver positions for controlled substances, and 10% for random alcohol testing during the calendar year 2020. In any circumstance where an employer is unable to comply with any part of the regulations in a timely manner, the employer should document the reasons why and then comply as soon as possible.

City personnel policies will also likely address how other employees must be tested and following the guidelines set out by the DOT during the pandemic should be considered and any variation from the policy should be documented. And as with DOT employees, once the pandemic ceases, the normal policies should immediately go back into place.

The July 6 DOT guidance can be found here and employers should check back often to see if there have been any additional changes. As with everything else right now, changes tend to happen very quickly and without much notice.

For questions on this or other personnel matters contact Personnel Services Manager Andrea Shindlebower Main or Courtney Risk Straw Personnel Services Attorney.