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Iowa Changes Employer Standards for Positive Alcohol Tests

Iowa Changes Employer Standards for Positive Alcohol Tests

The Iowa legislature has lowered the threshold at which private employers can take action against a hire based upon a positive alcohol test. Beginning July 1, 2018, state employers may consider taking action against an employee with a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, as low as .02%. Previously, state law restricted organizations from considering action against any worker with a BAC below .04%.

The alcohol-related amendment to Iowa's drug testing law was signed by Governor Kim Reynolds on March 28, 2018, adding to a list of requirements that hiring mangers must follow to conduct pre-employment and employment drug and alcohol screenings.

Iowa's three-decade-old drug and alcohol testing statute is considered one of the nation's most stringent in terms of employer compliance, along with Maine and Minnesota.

Additionally, an organization with at least 50 employees cannot take disciplinary action against a worker who tested positive for alcohol if that employee agrees to rehabilitation, has never before violated the employer's substance abuse policy, and has been working with the company for 12 of the preceding 18 months. At the least, Iowa employers must give their hires the option to attend rehabilitation rather than suffer outright disciplinary action.

Employers that fail to meet these standards are subject to potentially costly litigation. Since October 2017, five lawsuits have been filed against organizations for alleged violations of the state drug testing law.

Considering the most recent amendment to the drug law, Iowa employers should consult with counsel before taking adverse action against a current or would-be worker based on their alcohol or drug test results.

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