Saw a post by S&G Labs Hawai’i, LLC regarding the importance of substance abuse testing in the workplace on social media today. S&G believes every company should drug test, because according to the National Safety Council, employees who abuse prescription drugs are two to five times more likely to take unexcused absences, be late for work, be injured or violent at work, file workers’ compensation claims, and quit or be fired within one year of employment.
S&G adds that each year drug and alcohol abuse costs U.S. companies billions of dollars, which includes turnover rates for employees, unexcused absences, lower productivity, accidents, and increased workers’ compensation claims.
It’s not simply cost. Intoxicated or impaired employees harm others, as well as themselves. We cannot put a price on the safety of our loved ones and family members. As a public health professional, I support competent employee substance abuse programs.
And as a career public health professional, I am aware having a drug testing policy in place does not prevent most of this negative and dangerous behavior. Hawaiian Electric is considered one of the most prestigious companies in the islands.
In my review, they required a substance screen prior to officially hiring a qualified internal applicant. However, I saw no follow up. More concerning, the company did not have a screening policy for the thousands of contractors who serve on island or in many of the HECO facilities.
Son of NFL Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, Chris Long, explained how ineffective was the league’s policy. As players knew the annual testing date, they abstained from cannabis or other banned substances the month prior to the drug screen.
During this time, they beefed up on legal prescription drugs and alcohol to manage and control pain related to extreme training. Once they passed the league test, they resumed use of the prohibited substances.
After six months of excellent performance on the job at Hawaiian Electric, stellar reviews from my manager, Lori Yafuso, and coworkers, the company offered me an internal position. They required a simple urine screen.
I’m a trained anti-opioid public health professional and addiction specialist through the CDC & University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Due to disability and injuries, I use legal, prescribed medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids. I informed my HR rep Liz Deer of my disability and medication. She said I would be fine and I submitted to the company screen.
A urine screen does not determine intoxication or impairment from cannabis, which is caused by Delta 9 THC. It detects THC-COOH, which is a non-intoxicating byproduct that resides in human fat cells days, weeks and months after use.
Had I been an illegal recreational cannabis user, it would have been easy for me to beat their test. Residual use of recreational cannabis remains in the body sometimes just for hours. One could party on Saturday night and pass a drug screen Monday morning.
Another could consume cannabis during their lunch break at work and pass an employment drug screen two days later.
As a legal medical patient, cannabis residue remains in my body for weeks, if not longer. For being honest, ethical and a prescribed patient, Hawaiian Electric punished me; punished my team with the loss of a trained professional at a difficult time, and punished rate payers the cost of millions of dollars in training — leaving island-wide electric grid at security risk.
CEO Lau was the highest paid employee in Hawai’i the year her company fired me. HEI processes were neither scientific nor medically supported.
Due to the inaccurate understanding of medical science, HR director Shana Buco fired me. Attorneys Susan Li and Thao Tran refused to correct the misguided policy established by CEO Connie Lau. Ms. Lau had what some consider to be a remarkable career.
As a public health professional, I found her policies to be outdated, incompetently drafted, and ineffective at reducing workplace drug and substance abuse. They denied my request to submit to a DOT-sanctioned blood test that determines intoxication or impairment. As CEO Lau steps down at year’s end, she leaves a culture of incompetence behind.
Professionally, I was rated as an excellent employee … never late, no unexcused absences, never injured or violent at work, never filed a workers’ compensation claim, didn’t quit — yet was fired within one year of service — for AVOIDING deadly and addictive opioid medications, and honestly and ethically reporting my legal medication to corporate executives.
CEO Lau permits dangerous and addictive opioids. She even authorizes alcohol consumption and smoking on corporate property.
Companies like Hawaiian Electric test employees once — rarely again. Had I been a recreational user of cannabis, engaged in illegal activity, I could have easy stopped use to pass the drug screen. Such deceptive behavior occurs all the time. Thus, our workplaces remain unsafe.
Corporate drug policies do not work, as summarized by S&G Labs. Companies have been drug testing since passage of the federal 1988 Drug Free Work Place law, yet “each year drug and alcohol abuse costs U.S. companies billions of dollars, which includes turnover rates for employees, unexcused absences, lower productivity, accidents, and increased workers’ compensation claims.”
Hawaiian Electric has the HIGHEST energy rates in the nation, yet they waste money on drug screens that ineffectively assess abuse, and terminate quality employees who are safely and efficiently assisting our community.
This was my first experience serving under female Asian executives. Although immersed successfully in the Asian community for decades, I’ve never witnessed such incompetence and cruelty as I did with Hawaiian Electric executive management and their confused substance abuse policy.
Our family still suffers abuse and harassment from Hawaiian Electric today. As a public health professional, I warn families that companies in the islands are not Being Best to protect our loved ones.
Companies like S&G Labs seek to make money providing drug and substance use screening. Corporations spend millions of dollars annually on testing that fails to uncover employees who abuse drugs or represent a danger to their coworkers, the company or general public; while eliminating qualified and talented employees who select more safe alternative medications.
As we head into 2022 facing many health concerns and workplace safety issues, if can ask your elected representatives to demand effective substance abuse and COVID19 screening in the workplace.
And please, continue to support Senator Brian Schatz et al for re-introducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act. Medical cannabis prohibition kills Veterans, and 88% of respondents to their most recent member survey approved of cannabis use for medicinal purposes.
Wish you all well in the joyous holiday season. Mele Kalikimaka to all.
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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”