By O. Kay Henderson (Radio Iowa)
A Senate subcommittee has approved legislation that would change a legal standard for lawsuits involving employees who challenge workplace drug and alcohol testing at their worksite.
J.D. Davis, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, said under current law, it’s up to businesses to prove they are innocent if a worker sues over drug testing protocols, “so what this does is flip it back to the way we normally do jurisprudence, that if you’re going to make an allegation, you have to prove your allegation.”
Nick Laning, a lobbyist for the Iowa Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, suggested that will make it very difficult for employees to challenge drug testing policies or the validity of results.
“How is a low level employee able to make that argument against an employer?” Laning asked. “How do that make that argument when a lot of the evidence sits with the employer to start because they’re the one that did the drug test.”
Peter Hird, a lobbyist for the Iowa Federation of Labor, said it’s a big change. “It’s going to be really hard for an employee to even get to that point,” Hird said. “They’re going to have to hire an attorney, do some fact findings and discovery, where an employer actually has a lot of that information to begin with.”
Another part of the bill would let notices about drug testing be sent to employees electronically. Lisa Davis Cook, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of Justice – the group that represents trial lawyers, said some employees might miss important notices about drug tests.
“We see this happening in such a way that you’re checking all the boxes on a new employee form and you’re checking, ‘Yeah, I’ll get electronic notices,’ not realizing something as important as a drug test could be sent to you electronically,” Davis Cook said.
Republican Senator Adrian Dickey of Packwood, who owns a trucking company, said his employees are over-the-road drivers who may not be home to get their mail for a couple of weeks.
“They’ve asked if I could just call them up and tell them or email them or whatever it may be, so I’ve heard that request for years,” Dickey said. “And for that issue alone, I’m happy to sign off on this.”
The bill also would let businesses designate which employees are in safety-sensitive positions, so they’re subject to drug testing. The proposal is a response to a 2021 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that Casey’s could not require random drug testing for all warehouse employees by classifying all of their jobs as safety sensitive.