Jefferson Transit considers second-chance drug policy

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Transit Authority has proposed a revision to its zero-tolerance drug policy that would give employees a second chance if they fail a drug test.

The proposal was presented, but no action was taken, at a special meeting Sept. 6.

County Commissioners Kate Dean and Kathleen Kler formed a committee with Jefferson Transit General Manager Tammi Rubert to collect more data before a decision is made on the issue.

The next scheduled Transit meeting will be at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Jefferson Transit offices, 63 Four Corners Road.

The proposed plan now has flexibility around marijuana use, stating, “Under very limited circumstances involving marijuana, Jefferson Transit will allow an employee to return to work following a successful treatment and rehabilitation.”

It would also allow the employee to enter into a “last chance agreement” for three years, in which the employee would have to agree to random drug and alcohol testing in order to perform “safety functions,” including driving and mechanical repairs.

The revised policy would put all decisions of the “last chance agreement” into the hands of local substance abuse professionals, rather than Transit staff.

The changes would make Jefferson Transit an outlier. According to Rubert, she consulted with 19 transit authorities in Washington state, and only six offered a similar second-chance option, though two of those only applied to alcohol.

However, Rubert did specify that there was no correlation between increased accidents and second-chance policies.

Under the policy, employees would be removed from duty immediately if they tested positive for marijuana. This is identical to the steps taken if an employee has a blood-alcohol level of 0.02 percent to 0.039 percent or is visibly impaired by illness or sleep deprivation.

Community members who submitted public comment at the Sept. 6 meeting speculated that the policy change was due to one specific employee. Transit officials refused to comment on the employee in question, only stating that the person was not a bus driver.

Drivers are held to a higher standard because their job is considered a “safety function,” but if implemented, the changes to the drug and alcohol policy would apply to all transit employees.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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