Employment: Oklahoma Legislature Amends Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Laws
Once again, the Oklahoma legislature has enacted changes to the Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act. House Bill 2033, approved by the Governor on May 9, 2011, makes numerous changes to Oklahoma's drug and alcohol testing laws. The new laws go into effect on November 1, 2011.
The new law contains a number of changes favorable to employers. Notably, it makes it easier to implement a drug and alcohol testing program. Under the new law, employers are not required to provide a specific listing of the substances to be tested. Instead, employers can simply state that they test employees and applicants for drugs and alcohol. Additionally, employers are not required to wait 30 days after implementing a program to begin testing employees. Now, employers only have to wait 10 days. The new law no longer requires employers to offer an Employee Assistance Program ("EAP"). The new law also eliminates any possible criminal penalties for a violation of the statutes by an employer and limits an employee's ability to sue an employer for a violation. Under the new law, the statute of limitations has been changed from two years to one year and compensatory damages are not recoverable. The only available remedies under the new law are lost wages and liquidated damages.
However, not everything has changed. The new law still permits employers to conduct the following testing: applicant testing, for-cause (formerly called "reasonable suspicion") testing, post-accident testing, random testing and scheduled/periodic testing. The new law stills require the employer to pay for all costs associated with testing and to pay the employee for time spent traveling to an off-site testing facility. Additionally, employers must still maintain all drug and alcohol testing records in a confidential manner. Most importantly, in order to test employees and applicants for drugs and alcohol, employers must still have a written policy that complies with Oklahoma law.
For those employers who have previously struggled with how to handle the situation of its contractors' employees, the new law addresses this as well.
Bottom line. If you are testing employees in Oklahoma (and not under the Department of Transportation regulations), you will need to review your policy and practices before November 1 to ensure you are in compliance with the new law.
Our employment group is always available to answer any questions or concerns about the validity of your drug and alcohol testing policy.
By Kenneth T. Short, email@example.com