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Human Resources Department

Employee Resources

8-2 Reasonable Suspicion Policy

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I. Background

The Civil Service Rule 10 (A) (10), covering Disciplinary Action, and Personnel Policies of Sonoma County Water Agency, Sonoma County Fair & Exposition, Inc., and Community Development Commission prohibit the use or possession of drugs or alcohol while on the job or reporting to work while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Occasionally an employee may display behaviors on the job that may lead you to believe that the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When this happens, the Civil Service Rules/County Policies and your job description as a supervisor or manager give you the authority to take action.

Extra Help and contract employees are covered by this policy as well.

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II. Performance Standard

As a supervisor or manager, you are in a position of trust and confidence and have been delegated authority to manage on-the-job problems caused by the drug or alcohol user. Therefore, you need to adhere to the following standards for yourself and insist that your employee:

  1. Not report to work or be subject to duty while his/her ability to perform job duties is impaired, due to on or off duty use of drugs, alcohol or other intoxicants;
  2. Not use or possess illegal drugs or use other intoxicants while at work locations, while on duty or subject to being called to duty;
  3. Not directly or through a third party sell or provide illegal drugs to any person, including any employee while either employee or both employees are on duty subject to being called;
  4. Not take any medications or drugs, prescription or non-prescription, which may interfere with the safe and effective performance of duties or operation of County equipment;
  5. Provide a bona fide verification of a current valid prescription for any potentially impairing drug or medication when requested;
  6. Cooperate fully with the County Medical Officer when directed by management to undergo a medical evaluation as provided by Civil Service Rule 14.2, Employee Medical Reports (fitness for duty medical evaluation).

Some departments may adopt a policy that has higher standards regarding intoxicants and/or drugs, based on lawful and appropriate job-related justification and after consultation with employee organizations. Definition, procedures and justification are found in specific department policies.

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III. Management Responsibilities

If you suspect a problem, you may want to direct an employee to submit to a medical evaluation to determine if an employee is fit for duty. Civil Service Rule 14.2 authorizes you to do so.

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IV. Reasonable Suspicion

Any two of the following conditions may be sufficient for you to determine the need for a medical evaluation:

  1. Slurred speech.
  2. Alcohol odor on the employee’s breath.
  3. Unsteady walking or movement, disorientation or loss of balance.
  4. Physical altercation.
  5. Verbal altercation.
  6. Drastic change in behavior.
  7. Pattern of abnormal, erratic, paranoid or bizarre behavior.
  8. Possession of alcohol or illegal drugs.
  9. Information obtained from a reliable person with personal knowledge, based on direct observation.
  10. Unexplained drowsiness or sleeping on the job.
  11. Inability to respond appropriately to questions the employee should be able to answer.
  12. Any observable, objective phenomena, i.e., use, possession, physical symptoms.

Check with your supervisor/manager, whenever possible, before you give an employee an order to undergo a medical evaluation. Observation by two supervisors and/or managers is preferable.

When you observe these behaviors, you need to talk to the employee. Offer the employee an opportunity to explain his/her condition. If the employee admits to being under the influence, consult with your supervisor if you can, and do what you can to protect the health and safety of the employee and the rest of your staff.

Inform the employee that you have reasonable suspicion to believe that he or she has used drugs and /or alcohol in violation of the Sonoma County Civil Service Rules and County policy. The supervisor should be prepared to immediately take the employee for a medical evaluation. If the employee refuses, call for a union representative or if unavailable, another supervisor to witness your direction to undergo a medical evaluation. If the employee attempts to leave the work site, discourage but do not restrain the employee from leaving or driving away. If the employee indicates he or she will drive a vehicle, inform the employee you will call the police, and be prepared to do it. Inform the employee that may return later to get his or her car. Leave the employee’s car parked and make sure it is locked. Unless the car is illegally parked or poses a safety hazard, never assume liability for an employee’s vehicle.

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V. Drug and Alcohol Medical Evaluation

If the employee is to undergo a drug and alcohol medical evaluation, please call ahead to alert the medical staff.

  1. Between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.:
    1. Call Kaiser Permanente’s Occupational Health Center at (707) 566-5654 or (707) 566-5550
    2. Take the employee to: 3975 Old Redwood Highway, Medical Office Building 5, Suite 152, Santa Rosa, California
  2. Between 5:00p.m. and 8:30 a.m.:
    1. Drug testing is performed at Kaiser Emergency Medicine Dept. 401 Bicentennial Way, Santa Rosa, and is conducted by On-Site Health and Safety,
    2. Call (510) 245-2700 to request a Mobile Drug Testing Unit.
    3. If no response, contact Preferred Alliance, Inc. (877) 272-5227 (hotline) to request a drug/alcohol test technician.

Give the medical staff a written request to conduct the medical examination and provide them with a written description of the employee’s duties and the problem conditions you observed.

If the medical staff says the employee is fit for duty, direct the employee to remain fit for duty and allow the employee to return to work.

If the medical staff says the employee is not capable of working, consult with your superiors to discuss the administrative and/or disciplinary action that needs to be taken. (Someone will need to drive the employee home and safely secure the employee’s car.)

Remember under the privacy law you will not get a specific medical diagnosis. What you will receive is a general statement that describes the functional limitations of the employee.

It is important to keep accurate records of the events. This should include at least the following:

  1. Name of the employee, the name of the supervisor and a witness.
  2. The date, time and location.
  3. What was seen, heard or smelled.
  4. How the employee got home.
  5. What happened to the employee’s car.
  6. Did the employee undergo a medical evaluation and what were the results.
  7. The written request for a medical examination and a written statement of the employee’s duties.
  8. Recommended administrative and/or disciplinary action and/or Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to your manager as a result of the incident.

See Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol Review Checklist which will provide the needed information.

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