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County hopes updates to drug policy lead to more inclusive hiring

<i>WLOS</i><br/>Buncombe County commissioners voted unanimously to change the language that requires potential employees to be drug tested.
Buncombe County commissioners voted unanimously to change the language that requires potential employees to be drug tested.

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’s a move that makes the county a more inclusive place to work.

“This is a tough labor market to hire in, regardless of what industry you’re in, and we hope this helps us to be a more attractive employer,” Rafael Baptista, director of strategy and innovation for the county, said.

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

“We are looking at what’s going on nationally and saying, ‘Hey, this is the direction that makes sense,’” Baptista said.

What made sense was updating the county’s drug policy.

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

All county commissioners unanimously voted to change that.

“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 drug test you when they apply for a job, I’m not going to be able to hire you because that’s legal where you are. But you move out here, it’s a different story,” he said.

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

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

County statistics show the current policy hasn’t done much.

“In the last five years, between suspicion base and random drug testing applicant based, we’ve had four people fail a drug test,” he said.

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

“So, the reality is even the current language hasn’t really done much. I mean, people aren’t applying for jobs under the influence of drugs, and we’re not having employees show up to work under influence of drugs,” Baptista said.

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

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

This new policy goes in affect June 4. Buncombe County has 26 openings right now.

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