County hopes drug policy updates will lead to more inclusive hiring

By WLOS Staff

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ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — Buncombe County is making major changes to its drug policy for current and future employees.

Officials said it was a move that made the county a more inclusive place to work.

“It’s a tough job market to hire, regardless of your industry, and we hope this helps us be a more attractive employer,” said Rafael Baptista, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer. for the county.

Baptista was tasked with looking at ways the county could attract more applicants.

“We look at what’s happening nationally and say, ‘Hey, this is the direction that makes sense,'” Baptista said.

What made sense was to update the county’s drug policy.

“Current language says we will test everyone when they apply for a job,” Baptista said.

All County Commissioners voted unanimously to change this.

“What we’re saying is if I want to attract someone who works in a state where marijuana is legal and I’m going to test you when they apply for a job, I can’t hire you because that’s “It’s legal where you are. But you move here, that’s another story,” he said.

It’s a different story for county employees who work with machinery or drive a vehicle. They will still be subject to drug testing.

“We have reviewed our current policies,” Baptista said. “We have reviewed the federal laws that we must follow. We looked at our numbers and the statistics, and the statistics indicated what the risks are. What are the things we really need to worry about? Then we focused on that.

County statistics show that the current policy has done little.

“Over the past five years, between the basis of suspicion and the random drug test, we’ve had four people fail a drug test,” he said.

The county is following in the footsteps of big companies like Amazon and Walmart that have made similar changes to their drug policies.

“So the reality is that even the current language hasn’t really done much. I mean, people don’t apply for jobs under the influence of drugs, and we don’t have employees showing up to work under the influence of drugs,” Baptista said.

Baptista said the end goal is more job applicants and inclusiveness.

“I think the goal is just to be a more inclusive hiring organization. And, as a county government, we feel compelled and want to be a model of what inclusive hiring looks like in this community,” Baptista said.

This new policy comes into effect on June 4. Buncombe County currently has 26 openings.

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