By JOSEPH MARTIN
ONE FEATHER STAFF
According to a memo from Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed’s office on Tuesday, Nov. 20, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will no longer be requiring random drug testing of all employees as a condition of continued employment. Preemployment drug screens will still be conducted with those failing the tests refused employment. Some positions requiring high degrees of safety, such as fire fighters, police or paramedics, will still be required to pass random drug screens, but for other positions, such tests will only be required in cases of accidents or reasonable suspicion.
Ashleigh Stephens, public relations representative for the Principal Chief’s office stated, “The (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) Attorney General’s office has been tasked with researching the legality of random drug testing for all employees. The Attorney General’s office has conducted extensive research into court decisions at varying levels of authority regarding random drug testing. They have also researched neighboring and national municipalities’ policies regarding random drug testing. The Attorney General’s office has determined random drug testing for all employees to be unconstitutional.”
Acting EBCI Attorney General Mike McConnell said, “Random drug testing is not constitutional for every tribal employee.”
In response, the Tribe’s Human Resources Division has revised the personnel policy to remove the portion subjecting tribal employees to random drug screens. “Random Drug Testing will still be conducted for safety sensitive positions as well as after accidents or upon reasonable suspicion,” Stephens said. “The Human Resources Division has referenced the U.S. Supreme Court decisions as well as those made in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to determine which employees shall be considered safety sensitive positions.” These positions are those which hold responsibility for the safety of others.
The policy defines “reasonable suspicion” as the following:
* Direct observation of drug use or possession or physical symptoms of being under the influence of a drug, such as impairment of motor functions or speech;
* A pattern of abnormal conduct or erratic behavior;
* Arrests or convictions for drug-related offenses, or identification of an employee as the focus of a criminal investigation into possession, use or distribution;
* Discovered evidence that the employee tampered with a previous drug test.
Employees can also be terminated if a drug or alcohol offense results in the loss of a driver’s license if their job requires use of a vehicle in carrying out their duties. Employees can also be terminated if a drug or alcohol offense results in the loss of professional certifications needed to perform their job duties, if the job requires the operation of a motor vehicle.