A proposed policy requiring state employees to turn each other in if they suspect drug abuse has riled both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Utah Public Employees Association.
State officials said Tuesday the policy will likely undergo considerable revision before becoming final. But the first draft of the proposal, discussed at hearings Tuesday afternoon, raised concerns about the civil liberties of employees and the morale of state workers."They're making this much more stringent than they need to, as if drug trafficking was taking place in the hallways of state government," said Michele Parish-Pixler, acting executive director of the ACLU's Utah chapter.
Zane Gill, attorney for UPEA, called the proposed policy "abominable" and said it would lead employees to avoid legitimate treatments for illnesses.
Felix McGowan, assistant director of the state staffing and employee services bureau, said the 1988 Federal Drug-free Workplace Act requires states to enact policies for agencies that receive federal money or perform contracts worth more than $25,000.
But Gill, Parish-Pixler and others attending the hearings said the state's proposed policy goes far beyond the federal act.
Parish-Pixler is particularly concerned about a section that would require employees to tell their supervisors if they are taking any prescribed medicines that might alter their physical or mental abilities.
She said some employees may be treating illnesses they would rather not tell others about.
"Maybe you have a problem with depression," Parish Pixler said. "Why should you have to disclose that information? It's really not anyone else's business."
The policy would also require employees to notify a supervisor if they have reason to believe another employee is abusing illegal drugs.
"That's really going to be demoralizing for public employees," Parish-Pixler said.
The policy does not require employees to submit to any kind of drug testing. However, it would require employees who admit using drugs to enter a rehabilitation program at their own expense for no more than 30 days.
Gill said the requirement is unfair.
"Why treat one group of sick employees any differently than other sick employees just because one group has a disease with a social stigma attached to it?" he asked.
He said employees requiring treatment for longer than 30 days would have to decide whether to stay away from work and lose their jobs or return to work and be fired because they have not yet overcome their problems.