Federal drug test policy is changed

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Department has announced new rules for protecting the rights of millions of workers who are required to have drug tests.

The most significant changes, released Thursday, involve "validity testing," which is meant to detect specimens that have been adulterated or substituted. The rule extends to validity testing two safeguards already in place that protect a worker who tests positive for "drugs of abuse," such as cocaine, heroin or marijuana.

In the first protection, a physician, hired by the employer, will review test results when a lab indicates the specimen may have been tampered with or substituted. The physician would have the power to cancel the finding of tampering if that result comes from a legitimate medical reason.

In the second case, an employee also can have a different laboratory test a second sample of his or her specimen to make sure the original lab did not make an error.

The government requires drug testing of millions of transportation employees, such as bus drivers, railroad workers, airline mechanics and flight crews.

The changes were announced the same day that the Department of Health and Human Services disclosed new evidence of lab mistakes that can brand innocent workers as cheaters or drug abusers, ending their careers without a chance for appeal, The New York Times reported in its Friday editions.

The department reported that it inspected all 66 of the validity testing laboratories it supervises and, as a result, instructed them to cancel the results of tests failed by 250 to 300 workers, The Times reported.

The Transportation Department, acknowledging in its release that transportation workers face severe consequences if their specimens are thought to be adulterated or substituted, said most of the new rules will take effect in 30 days.

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