A new workplace drug testing law went into effect this week so Iowa employers will be allowed to discipline more workers for inebriation on the job.
The law will lower the allowed workplace blood alcohol standard from 0.04 to 0.02 to bring Iowa in line with federal law.
Sukup Manufacturing External Relations Manager Rachel Geilenfeld lobbied the legislature for the change.
“There is data that supports that at the 0.02 blood alcohol content level somebody's impairment is at a much lower level than 0.04,” Geilenfeld said, “including certain tasks they can perform.”
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Transportation adopted the federal standard of 0.02 for employees operating heavy equipment.
Geilenfeld said Iowa’s more lenient standard created confusion, especially when an employee was in violation of the federal standard, but not the Iowa law.
“There was some lack of clarity on whether the employer could take appropriate disciplinary action against those employees,” Geilenfeld said. “So if they fell in that gap our only recourse was to send them home with pay.
“That created a tricky incentive for employees,” Geilenfeld added.
Gielenfeld said at Sukup Manufacturing, managers conduct a blood alcohol test if an employee is the subject of two independent complaints from fellow workers.
The Iowa Association of Business and Industry backed HF 2383. Geilenfeld said during the legislative session some employee groups expressed concern about the bill, including the reliability of testing. But the bill passed the House by a vote of 96 to 2. The Senate vote was 44 to 5.
“You can see by the votes the legislators didn’t seem extremely concerned about it,” Gielenfeld said.
Sukup Manufacturing backed a similar bill in 2015. That bill did not advance under a divided Iowa legislature.