Random drug testing of some 15,000 state employees in safety-related or "sensitive" jobs, originally scheduled to begin this week, could be delayed for two months until program administrators receive more training and a legislative oversight committee approves the rules.
At a labor-management advisory committee meeting yesterday, the state personnel department agreed not to begin random testing until some 140 "technical representatives" have obtained further training in administering the program, committee members said. The one-day training program will be expanded, the agency said.
Implementation of the program will also be delayed until the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee has held a public hearing on the regulations, which was requested by the Maryland Classified Employees Association.
The hearing will likely be held after next month's general election, according to legislative sources. The committee has veto power over the emergency personnel regulations.
"It does not appear that the testing could be implemented for a couple of months, from today's meeting," said Janet Anderson of the MCEA.
State employee labor unions, including MCEA and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, have opposed random drug testing as unnecessary and an invasion of privacy. They expect to press that point at the AELR committee hearing.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer first supported a proposed policy of firing any state employee who tested positive for drugs.
In mid-August, he changed his view to favor a policy of a 15-day suspension and mandatory drug rehabilitation for a first-time offender, requiring a redrafted plan that qualified as emergency personnel rules subject to AELR review.