Get Updates

Bloomberg BNA Covers Labor Groups’ Opposition to Hair Testing Transportation Workers for Drugs

By Admin

As published by Chris Opfer in Bloomberg BNA

Hair and Drug Testing Delayed in Transportation Bill

Transportation businesses will have to wait at least a year to start taking hair samples to test workers for drugs, under the surface transportation reauthorization bill (H.R. 3763) approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Oct. 22.

Unlike the Senate-passed version of the six-year funding legislation (H.R. 22), the House bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to first issue technical and scientific hair-testing guidelines before businesses could use hair testing on transportation workers. It would also limit the use of such tests by allowing employers to take random hair samples through the course of employment only from those workers who were subjected to a hair test before they were hired.

Labor groups, including the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, the United Steelworkers and the Air Line Pilots Association, have opposed hair testing, saying that differences in hair texture can lead to false positives and race discrimination (161 DLR A-7, 8/20/15). A federal appeals court found in a 2014 lawsuit challenging the Boston Police Department’s use of hair testing that black officers were more likely than white officers to test positive for cocaine (89 DLR AA-1, 5/8/14).

“We think they should not allow it at all because the science really hasn’t caught up yet,” TTD President Edward Wytkind told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 23. “It can’t be done in a scientific way without having a number of false positives and without some discrimination.”

Trucking Group Favors Hair Tests

The trucking industry, on the other hand, has touted hair testing as a more accurate way of keeping drug users from getting behind the wheel of big rigs.

“Hair testing is an effective tool for identifying drug users due its long detection window and because it is difficult for donors to beat the test,” American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves wrote in an August letter to lawmakers. The ATA has urged Congress to pass legislation allowing hair testing as part of federally required drug screening for drivers.

The committee approved the surface transportation reauthorization bill unanimously by voice vote. It could come to the floor for a full chamber vote in the coming weeks—as lawmakers look to shore up funding for the measure—before both chambers go to conference to hammer out a finalized measure.