City Against Adopting Lenient Drug Policy

OCEAN CITY – Town employees will remain under a zero-tolerance policy regarding substance abuse, after the City Council decided against adopting a new, more lenient policy this week.

Human Resources Director Roger Weseman presented the Mayor and City Council with the proposed policy change this week; a modification that would give employees who were terminated for substance abuse a second chance.

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Currently, the Town of Ocean City has a zero-tolerance policy regarding substance abuse and has for nearly 10 years.

All town employees, or applicants, are subject to pre-drug testing. Applicants who fail the test are therefore denied employment.

Employees are also prohibited from the, “unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, purchase, possession, sale or use of illegal drugs or unauthorized controlled substances on City premises, in owned, leased or rented vehicles, or while engaged in business is prohibited.” The same rules apply to alcohol use.

While the town has a zero-tolerance policy, which essentially means one strike and you’re out, there is some leniency for employees who voluntarily seek help with substance abuse problems.

“It is the policy of the Town of Ocean City to assist those employees with substance abuse issues who self-identify or voluntarily seek assistance before they are found to be in violation of this policy,” reads the town’s substance abuse policy.

The town has been operating under these guidelines with little problem for a decade, reported Weseman.

Weseman explained that several governments and municipalities across the country are adopting, or have been using for several years, a second-chance policy. The alternative policy offers terminated employees a second chance, with certain conditions.

The policy presented to the City Council this week would suggest four conditions to the re-hiring of an employee who was originally terminated for substance abuse violation.

The policy would call for at least three years to have elapsed since termination. The applicant would also need to provide evidence of successful Employee Assistance Program completion. The employee would be treated completely as a new employee and would be subject to random drug testing for two years.

Weseman explained that it is a growing practice in some governments, with the ultimate aim of helping and assisting employees.

“I’m all for zero-tolerance, period. I have a zero-tolerance policy where I work,” said Councilman Lloyd Martin.

Martin pointed out the abundance of applications the town usually receives for job openings. He said there is no need to consider hiring an applicant who violated the town’s policy.

“I don’t think we have a problem hiring people,” Martin said.

Councilman Jim Hall sided with Martin.

“I agree with Lloyd, he took the words right out of my mouth,” said Hall.

Hall pointed out that many of the town employees are responsible for operating vehicles and heavy equipment, a task that could jeopardize the safety of many people if practiced with substance abuse.

“I think what we’re doing now works, I can’t vote for this right now,” he said.

The council took no action on the proposal, making no motion to accept the recommendation. The current zero-tolerance policy will remain in place, as is.