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This is a reminder to employers that a number of important changes to the Oklahoma Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act become effective November 1, 2011, and will provide employers some much needed relief and flexibility in implementing and administering drug and alcohol testing policies.

Among other things, the amendments include the following changes:

  • Employers may test independent contractors and their employees as long as the contractual agreement allows for such testing and other workers at the job site are subject to testing.
  • Employers need not include a list of specific substances to be tested for.
  • Employers may conduct on-site testing more easily, and are allowed more flexibility in handling, storing and shipping samples.
  • Employers are required to give employees only 10 days notice before implementing new or changed policies, as opposed to 30 previously.
  • Testing based upon “reasonable suspicion” has been replaced with “for cause” testing, which gives employers more flexibility in determining whether to test individuals, such as when there are excessive or unexplained absences or negative performance patterns.
  • Employers are no longer required to sponsor Employee Assistance Programs in order to test.
  • Aggrieved individuals must prove the employer had a “specific intent” to violate the law to prevail.
  • The statute of limitations has been reduced from two years to one year.
  • Individuals are disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation based upon “misconduct” if the employer proves the existence of a policy and positive test or the individual’s refusal to undergo a test.
  • Individuals are barred from receiving workers compensation benefits if they refuse post-accident testing or if there is a positive post-accident test.
  • The court may award a prevailing defendant attorneys fees.
  • The provisions allowing for criminal penalties for violations have been repealed.

Employers should review and amend policies accordingly if they haven’t already done so.