published Monday, December 16th, 2013

Hawkins County official won't comply with drug-testing policy

ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. — A county official in East Tennessee is refusing to participate in a drug-testing program even though it could end up costing the municipality $17,541.

Hawkins County Property Assessor Jeff Thacker told the Kingsport Times-News that he's not sure if the county program complies with state law and thinks the policy violates the rights of employees.

"I chose at this time not to participate in a countywide policy because I don't believe it's been set up by the law," he said. "The employees have rights too. I'm all about saving money, but I'm also about protecting my employees' right. "

The policy, which was approved earlier this year, says all employees are subject to post-accident drug screenings while employees who are in "safety sensitive" positions are screened before being hired and are subject to random screenings.

Becky Brock of the Local Government Insurance Pool told a Hawkins County Commission committee that the county gets a 5 percent discount on workman's comp insurance premiums only if all departments comply with the drug screening policy.

"You only qualify for that 5 percent if every employee who benefits from workman's comp benefits is in compliance," Brock said. "That 5 percent credit ended up being almost $18,000 for Hawkins County this year. We will have to renege that credit if we can't be sure that all county employees are in compliance with the program."

She said if any one department decides not to comply, "the whole county is going to suffer because of it."

The panel approved a motion to send a letter to all officeholders saying they must comply with the policy.

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