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Myers pitches breathalyzer bill again

February 10, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - A Washington County lawmaker is trying again to win legislation that would let employers use breathalyzer tests on employees suspected of drinking on the job.

But unions oppose the bill, heard Thursday in the House Economic Matters Committee.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, sponsored a similar bill last year, but it quietly died in committee.

Since then, Myers told the committee, he has collected policy guides from a number of companies - all of which require drug- and alcohol-free environments.

The question is whether companies should be permitted to use breathalyzer tests to enforce their policies.

Current law permits employers to take blood, hair, urine or saliva samples for testing that would determine whether workers are impaired.

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Using a breathalyzer, Myers argued, is less invasive and time-consuming.

But the AFL-CIO and Communications Workers of America both submitted briefs opposing the bill.

While stressing that CWA members "do not condone the illicit use of alcohol," District 4 Vice President Mike Dean told the committee that current law goes far enough.

He also said current testing methods are done by licensed laboratories.

"Under this bill, anybody trained by the manufacturer can test," he said.

Del. John G. Trueschler, R-Baltimore County, asked Dean what the union is doing to "weed these people out" of the work force.

"If we see someone with a problem, we try to get them into treatment," Dean said.

"What can an employer do if they can't get them tested?" Trueschler asked.

"They take them off the job site and get them tested," Dean replied.

The Maryland Retailers Association supports the bill, however.

"Many retailers have truck drivers and warehouses where heavy equipment is used," associate President Tom Saquella said.

Using breathalyzers, he said, would make the workplace safer and decrease liability for employers.

House Bill 299

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