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Hey, UIS! What the heck are you doing?

Friday, Dec 13, 2019

* Bruce Rushton

I ran into Rob, not his real name, a couple months ago at a local watering hole. He’s worked in the cafeteria at University of Illinois Springfield for more than five years. Last summer, he told me, he tried for a promotion that would have come with a sizeable raise. He says he would have gotten the job except, unbeknownst to him, UIS changed its drug testing policy as of July 1, making it clear that employees must pass drug tests before they can change positions, if the new position is on a list that strikes me as odd.

From executive chef to folks who wash dishes, no one who wants a job in food service at UIS can get hired, or promoted to another job preparing or serving food, without passing a drug test. Rob told me that his promotion was rescinded after he tested positive for pot, but he was allowed to keep his job, even though that position, also, is on the list. According to UIS policy, it’s a matter of safety. UIS police officers must pass drug tests, but not dispatchers who answer emergency calls and give directions to responding officers. Go figure.

What the heck is going on at that university? First the administration threatened to call the cops and even fire employees if they fed feral cats, which have been on the campus for decades. Then it was the administration’s pathetically feeble response to racism by some employees. And now only pot-free people can wash dishes in the cafeteria? Is campus administration living in 1985 or something?

* Back to Bruce

Michael Higgins, owner of Maldaner’s restaurant, doesn’t make applicants pee. “I wouldn’t be able to hire anyone,” he says. “What waiter or busboy or dishwasher wants to wait a month to get pot out of their system to work for me?”

This doesn’t mean Higgins doesn’t care. Alcohol, he says, is a bigger problem than pot, and so he keeps a breath-testing device on hand in case someone is showing signs. Drugs also aren’t allowed on the job, applicants sign agreements upon employment acknowledging the rules and Higgins says he keeps a sharp eye. “I have excellent employees who work for me and have worked for me for years, but I know they do pot,” Higgins says. “I don’t care if you drink, I don’t care if you do pot, I don’t care what the hell you do. Don’t bring it to work.”


* One more excerpt

While UIS last summer tightened its drug testing policy, Lincoln Land Community College will stop testing most job applicants for marijuana as of Jan. 1, when recreational pot becomes legal. All applicants still will be tested for hard drugs, and pre-employment drug tests will still include pot for prospective police officers, health profession instructors and folks who want to work with preschoolers in the college’s child development center.

We’ve reached the point where the local community college is more progressive than the University of Illinois campus. Weird.

…Adding… Good point in comments…

This post comes the day Major League Baseball Major League announced it is removing marijuana from the list of drugs of abuse and will be treated the same as alcohol. Testing for opioids (y’know, the stuff that actually kills people like Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs) will begin instead. It’s easier to have THC in your system playing in the Texas League (a state that used to give out prison sentences for possession of a joint) than working for UIS.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Downstate - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:45 am:

    If you are an employer with employees serving the public (ie. food industry) or operating heavy equipment (manufacturing, construction), how do you protect yourself from the new marijuana law other than with a “zero tolerance” policy?

    I believe that the state of Illinois requires a zero tolerance policy for any state projects.

  2. - My New Handle - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:46 am:

    So food service workers can’t be baked? Ironic.

  3. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:52 am:

    – We’ve reached the point where the local community college is more progressive than the University of Illinois campus. Weird. –

    The reality is that in 2019, local community colleges often are more progressive, effective and efficient than the University of Illinois campus.

  4. - Threepwood - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:53 am:

    Is it possible to test for levels of pot (presumably mainly THC?) associated with impairment? That is, something roughly analogous to BAC limits for drunk driving?

  5. - Downstate Dave - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:53 am:

    You have a little under 3 weeks to get with the times, UIS.

  6. - Nick Name - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:54 am:

    ===So food service workers can’t be baked? Ironic.===

    Restaurant quality.

    To the post. I am allergic to weed and because of that, I don’t partake. So on a certain level, I have no dog in this fight.

    But I do have a dog in this fight, because this is a civil liberties issue that affects all of us. Especially after January 1. It sounds like Rob had been very unjustly treated by a university administration that has its head firmly implanted in its hindquarters. Firing people for feeding cats? Seriously?

    Grow up, UIS. You’re part of a world-class university system. Act like it.

  7. - Bruce (no not him) - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 9:56 am:

    When someone can develop a test that can tell the THC level that currently is in someone, they will take care of this problem. Who cares if anyone smoked 2 weeks ago Saturday, if today is Tuesday?

  8. - SWIL Voter - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:00 am:

    Drug tests screen pot users, but fail to reveal all but the most hopeless addicts of other drugs. You’d just have to quit doing cocaine or crack for a few days to pass a drug test. And you can buy fake urine online for less than $50 anyway.

  9. - Ducky LaMoore - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:04 am:

    ===Is campus administration living in 1985 or something?===

    Close. 1984.

  10. - XonXoff - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:16 am:

    “Close. 1984.”

    I see what you did there. :)

  11. - efudd - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:24 am:

    “more progressive”

    Got my A.S. from Shawnee CC in the early aughts, B.S. from SIU couple years later.

    Tiny Shawnee in Ullin was light years ahead of SIU at that time when it came to distance learning.

  12. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:25 am:

    What’s the matter? UIS doesn’t like cats?

    ==The Animal Protective League of Springfield was coordinating a program to trap, neuter, and vaccinate the UIS cats, then releasing them back on campus. APL clinic manager Sarah Moore said the university ordered the APL to stop doing trap, neuter, and return.==

  13. - Whatever - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:29 am:

    Back when it was Sangamon State, I think testing positive was a requirement. But that might have been only for professors.

  14. - Thomas Paine - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:30 am:

    The irony of course is that oxycodone, probably the most dangerously abused drug after alcohol, doesn’t show up on a standard drug screen.

  15. - R A T - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:42 am:

    What drives me nuts, again, is that the rules are applying to underlings but not the higher ups. Simple to me. Any rule that applies to someone that works for me, must apply to me. (This needs to apply to legislature too.)

  16. - Dan - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:44 am:

    Whatever happened to the floppy hat culture? Geez.

  17. - Huh? - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:47 am:

    IDOT has a zero tolerance policy for pot because the agency receives federal funding.

  18. - Sayitaintso - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 10:59 am:

    @Michelle Flaherty: exactamundo…I love Community Colleges. I graduated from ICC in East Peoria and learned more from that than at ISU. Daughter went to Lincoln Land and graduated Summa Cum Laude at ISU - she still raves about Lincoln Land. CC’s quicker on their feet, closer to the students and their needs, and more reactive to the needs of business.

  19. - JSS - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    Here’s the list of positions at UIS subject to drug screening: A chief accountant can be mainlining horse tranquilizers, but a locksmith can’t eat a pot brownie to help get some sleep. On the other hand, I do agree with keeping the “Snack Bar Supervisor” on the list.

  20. - SpfdNewb - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:02 am:

    -IDOT has a zero tolerance policy for pot because the agency receives federal funding.-

    Unfortunately this is probably the case for UIS.

  21. - Independent - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:15 am:

    Community colleges are much smaller and have less bureaucracy than the U of I system. As such it’s not surprising they are more nimble and can change more quickly.

  22. - Young dino - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:19 am:

    All recent contracts negotiated by cms - governor’s office are zero tolerance for cannabis

  23. - What's in a name? - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:21 am:

    The Dean Vernon Wormer syndrome.

    Sometimes you get the idea they just like rules.

  24. - Downstate - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:24 am:

    Determining impairment from marijuana via blood testing, is not the same as for alcohol.

    THC crosses the blood-brain barrier much more slowly than alcohol. This is why studies show that the blood level of THC can be dropping at the same time that the feeling of being high is increasing.

    THC migrates very rapidly from the blood to the body’s fat stores. This is why the THC level in blood drops by 90% within the first hour after smoking, even though the metabolic half-life of THC is estimated to be about four days.

    Because of the high fat content in the brain, THC remains in the brain long after it can no longer be detected in the blood. This is why pot users consistently have higher levels of THC in their brains than in their blood, according to autopsy results.

    If a person causes harm and are found to have THC in their blood (no matter the level), the above items will be used to confer absolute liability on that individual. I’m not sure how an employer CAN NOT have a “zero tolerance” policy for their employees.

  25. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:25 am:

    UIS has a lot of weird policies, this is just one of them. I’m a current part-time student there and they required copies of 3 different sets of immunization records before I could enroll. Even my physician said it was nuts. Luckily my old elementary school somehow had my records from 40 years ago, otherwise they wouldn’t have allowed me to enroll

  26. - Donnie Elgin - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:41 am:

    This was all part of the weed Fix bill SB 1557. It had pro weed language in terms of municipal cannabis retailers’ occupation tax. But it also affirms the right of employers to test. It passed with massive majority and was signed by JB.

  27. - wakeup - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 11:51 am:

    Not SSU anymore… you had to smoke pot to work there at that time.

  28. - Almost the weekend - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 12:10 pm:

    You put UIS out of the Springfield downtown city limits, putting them in their own bubble, they still think it’s 1985 and the War on Drugs can be won.

  29. - Rich Hill - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 12:17 pm:

    This post comes the day Major League Baseball Major League announced it is removing marijuana from the list of drugs of abuse and will be treated the same as alcohol. Testing for opioids (y’know, the stuff that actually kills people like Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs) will begin instead. It’s easier to have THC in your system playing in the Texas League (a state that used to give out prison sentences for possession of a joint) than working for UIS.

  30. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 12:28 pm:

    Pot causes insanity…in those who have never consumed it…even billionaires are affected.

  31. - Nearly Normal - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 12:33 pm:

    I was curious if there were drug testing requirements for the entire U of I system. Here is the list I found for staff pre-employment testing.

  32. - Downstate - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 1:00 pm:

    USDOT testing shows that the amount of THC in the blood drops dramatically, while actual impairment lasts much, much longer.

    How can an employer, even for the safety of the other workers, not require zero tolerance?
    I think the liability is just too great.

  33. - IllinoisBoi - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 1:26 pm:

    I’m not sure the U of I system has “tightened” drug testing policies much in recent years. The “Job titles requiring medical evaluation” page Nearly Normal referenced states “Drug testing is required as a condition of employment by campus policy. 3/01/1998.”

    But since the policy is quite old, it should probably be reviewed in light of new laws.

  34. - NoGifts - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 1:29 pm:

    There are many organizations that receive federal funding, and they don’t give random drug tests.

  35. - @misterjayem - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 1:54 pm:

    “How can an employer, even for the safety of the other workers, not require zero tolerance? I think the liability is just too great.”

    And they said pot would make me paranoid…

    – MrJM

  36. - Maryjane - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 2:19 pm:

    Makes me wonder about connections ($) between the employers testing and the businesses that conduct and analyze the tests. I recall the former governor of Florida, Scott, was really into drug testing everyone that he could, and it turned out he had a large stake in the company that did the tests.

    Good job to major league baseball coming to their senses. I hope the other sports follow their lead.

  37. - statehoss - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 2:59 pm:

    there’s complete consistency, of course, between having a policy against pot while pot is against the law, and ending that policy when pot is legalized.

  38. - Jocko - Friday, Dec 13, 19 @ 4:32 pm:

    ==How can an employer…not require zero tolerance?==

    Because this is a lazy alternative to laying eyes on your employees and removing those who appear impaired (on cannabis or any other substances).

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