May 17, 2007

LANL enforces strict drug policy

May 17, 2007

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) — Some employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory have resigned or been fired under the lab’s new random drug testing policy, but the lab said it hasn’t been very many.

Fewer than 10 people have left Los Alamos lab since the tougher drug testing was implemented March 5, a lab spokesman, Kevin Roark, said Thursday. Some resigned and some were terminated, he said.

Lab officials have called in about 200 employees, most of them with security clearances, since the random tests began.

The lab announced earlier this year that under the expanded drug policy, tests will be conducted for at least 20 percent of the work force. The policy said workers could be fired for a positive drug test, and those who fail to appear will be treated as if the test were positive.

The policy states that a positive drug test will result in disciplinary action — up to and including termination.

Employees who test positive or who refuse to be tested can resign to avoid termination, Roark said.

He said he’d heard some “outrageous” numbers in the past few weeks about the number of people who’d left the lab under the new policy.

“It’s fewer than 10,” he said. “We have no reason to make it what it’s not.”

More than 300 lab employees submitted comments on the policy to the lab before it was implemented, many of them concerning the possibility of “false positive” results.

Doris Heim, the lab’s associate director for business, said this spring that safeguards are in place to address those types of results. If, for example, an employee provided documentation about a prescription medication, the drug test will be reported as negative, she said.

Lab Director Michael Anastasio said the lab updated its substance abuse policy as part of its efforts to tighten security.

“The new substance abuse policy reflects today’s environment and the need to take greater precautions to ensure a work place that is safe, secure and demonstrates that we are worthy of our nation’s trust,” Anastasio told an all-employee meeting in December.

The policy includes pre-employment screening of all regular employees, including contractors; random testing of lab workers; testing after serious incidents or accidents; and testing in response to reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use.


Anonymous said...

Enough about drug testing. Let's move on. It's here, it should have been put into place a long time ago but UC let the buttheads and cowboys run the place. The more druggies that leave, the better.


Anonymous said...

Enough about drug testing. Let's move on. It's here, it should have been put into place a long time ago but UC let the buttheads and cowboys run the place. The more druggies that leave, the better.



Pinky and The Brain said...

"Doris Heim, the lab’s associate director for business, said this spring that safeguards are in place to address those types of results. If, for example, an employee provided documentation about a prescription medication, the drug test will be reported as negative, she said."

Passing a polygraph claiming your result is a false positive due to prescription medication should be sufficient documentation, right?

Anonymous said...

Interesting. 14 (per Seestrom) is not less than 10.

Anonymous said...

10 > 14, 14 < 10 ???

At least it is a drug test, not a math test.

Anonymous said...

The new random drug and polygraph testing cuts to the core of what has dramatically changed in the management of LANL. Under the old contract, DoE paid UC only $8M to manage a $2B contract, a fantastic bargain, but DoE did not see it that way.

Now for $75M (still a bargain by defense contractor standards), they have

(1) An "incentivized" management, i.e. the top management receives bonuses for doing exactly what DoE wants. LANL's managers are no longer insulation for the employees for the whims of Congressmen and The Press; indeed, management is now the enemy.

(2) An ability to fine. In addition to yanking management bonuses, DoE now has $50M (2/3rds) easily available in the contract to further punish, and the other $25M may even be up for grabs. The oversight committee in the past few months has clearly been gunning for just how much of the $75M they can fine. And I think the parent organizations may be on the hook for even deeper pockets for bigger fines. In the past, DoE paid their own fines.

(3) An "at will" employee base. During the WHL and disk-drive fiascos of 1999-2000, Congressmen and the press were calling for the firing of identified LANL employees, from Hecker on down. Richardson had to explain that LANL employees weren't really in DoE's control, that all DoE could do is politely ask UC to fire them. That's fixed now. Any employee at any level can be immediately terminated with no need to state cause.

So, Drug Test! Yes, Sir! Polygraph! Yes, Sir! (Coming) RIF! YES, SIR!

Anonymous said...

The Fourth Amendment is fundamental to privacy. You simply do not have to defend why the government cannot root around in your junk without probable cause. Random drug testing lets your employer yank your junk out on demand, with no probable cause.

So why is the employer, particularly LANS, an obvious explicit agent of the government, allowed to violate a right so fundamental to Americans?

It is that simple.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the DOE will have no problem finding highly educated US citizens with Phd's in nuclear science and top level clearances who enjoy having their top management spit in their faces and humilate them . However, in most countries people with these types of educational qualifications are treated as national heroes and not as potential crooks. Frankly, I'm amazed that more of the top scientific staff haven't already walked out the front doors.

Anonymous said...

10:12 AM - be sure that quite some of the top scientist have already left, prior to June 1 2006 as well as recently. Others chose to stay for various reasons (apparently not due to the friendly management and regulations). But high salary may still be a factor, continuous funding of their own projects, kids in a rather good public school, whatever...

Anonymous said...

"Interesting. 14 (per Seestrom) is not less than 10."

The number two weeks ago from another source within the program was in fact 14. No coincidence here.

darko said...

11:31/11:42 -

Yes, please, MOVE ON!

This is a huge and fundamental issue and those who do not see it as such should "move on".

Move on to another blog. Move on up in management where they like your kind of attitude. Move on to the next post (like about Polygraph and call anyone against polygraphs a spy!). Move on to a gestapo state where your attitude will be universally saluted.

I know two people who terminated *BEFORE* March 5th in protest against this policy. They sent explicit letters to Anastasio explaining their reason for termination and offering to give exit interviews on that and a whole list of other topics explaining why they were leaving (he has not contacted them on in this regard) I have good reason to believe that neither of them are occasional, much less habitual drug users. They were both young enough (but over 50) so as not to be ready to retire and were both uninterested in leaving the area.

I also know exactly 2 people who have been called in for testing.

Let's see... 2/200 called in means 1% 2/20000 =.01% My guess is that there are a LOT more folks who quit in protest before the policy and/or before they were called in.

I myself have strongly considered refusing the test on principle. Clearly Management, some/many of our co-workers like 11:31/11:42, DOE, NNSA, Congress and probably the press and public would imagine or label me a "Druggie".

The fact is I have *never* used illegal drugs. (I also don't use prescrption drugs and very little over the counter drugs). Why does my potential refusal make me a "druggie"? It doesn't. But with our "divide and conquer" tactics, it might as well, eh?

It would be interesting to pro-actively retain a lawyer and an "accredited" drug-testing service and when I am called in, call my lawyer, immediately go for the independent test, and let them terminate me and see how it all comes out in court. Unfortunately I have a lot more to lose (my job if not a big piece of my career) than LANS/DOE has to lose (they can afford a *LOT* of lawyers and a lot of time).

Such an act by one person (me) would probably be futile, shall we say, "pissing in the wind"? But such an act by even 5% of the people called in might get the attention of the media, maybe even Congress.

Damn tedious having to fight for your dignity, your constitutional rights... But to ignore such transgressions seems like adding slippery to the slope.

- Darko

Dr. Strangelove said...

5% (10 of 200) is a pretty high rate for truly "random" testing here... maybe low in another context, but high here.

How many of the 10 refused on principle, not because they knew they would test positive?

And is it 10 or is it 14 (or some other number)?

How many tested positive and "talked" their way out of it? Prescription drug use is not the only reason for a false positive. There are over-the-counter drugs and the all-time-favorite "poppy-seed muffin".

Sorry... "move on" just doesn't cut it. This is a bogus program (though not as bogus as Polygraphs) to create a smoke screen, an illusion to make it look like LANS/Bechtel is "fixing the problem". At best they are treating some symptoms... and probably not even than.

- Strangeo

PS. I'm still trying to recover my attitude after contemplating what happened to Todd. I cannot believe how little awareness/sympathy his abuse, firing and neglect brought up in the community and now 2 years after his death I hear only a handful of voices speaking up in regret, disgust, outrage, or even sympathy. We are a pathetic lot. Pathetic.
(I think maybe I'm getting my "voice" back)!

Anonymous said...

"We are a pathetic lot. Pathetic."

Yes, indeed. As in...


Yes sir! Thank you, sir! May I have another?


Ohhh, thank you so much, sir! May I please have another?

(Whack!!! Whack!!! Whack!!!)

Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are so kind to me, sir. May I please have just one more?

Anonymous said...

"management is now the enemy."

Management has always been "the enemy" at LANL. This is nothing new. This is the LANL culture. It did not come with LANS. Now there are just new excuses to make management the enemy. Look in the mirror. The enemy is within us.

Anonymous said...

This is not a 4th amendment issue. Most industries drug test. Industrial rates are 2-5% for positives. You are not forced to do this. You can leave.

Anonymous said...

Darko wrote: "I myself have strongly considered refusing the test on principle. "

But you won't. You don't have the courage. So STFU.

Anonymous said...

6:15 PM "You can leave."

Yeah, right. I own a home here, my kids are embedded in the high school, my projects are routed through here, etc.

And when I started many years ago, I swore an oath (literally) to the State of California, signed docs that if I was lying about drug use and foreign contacts that I could be prosecuted simply for the lie, etc.

Now, greatly after the fact, C-students have retroactively decided that I must take drug tests and polygraphs, just to cover their fat asses.

I did not sign up for these further invasions into my privacy. I wasn't given a choice. I'm intertwined into the community here. By design, Los Alamos is in the middle of nowhere, on a dead-end road. You don't simply change employers.

"Move on" is not a simple choice.

Anonymous said...

"But you won't. You don't have the courage. So STFU." - 6:16 PM

One of our brand new LANS Bechtelian managers, no doubt. His way with words have that C-grade smell to them that I've come to associate with the new boys who run this joint.

STFU seems to be the new LANS/Bechtel motto for the LANL workforce. In fact, perhaps we should consider changing the old motto of "World's Greatest Science" to simply "STFU". Wouldn't that look splendid on all LANL viewgraphs?

darko said...

6:16 -

Sadly, you don't have a clue what I do and don't have the courage to do.

You couldn't have a clue...

I can't even imagine why you think you need to tell me that you know this. It sounds to me like you have your own deep seated neuroses to deal with. But I know about as much about you as you know about me, so this is idle speculation on my part...

I may very well not choose to do this. I certainly have not succeeded in obtaining the kind of legal representation and fast-access to a proper drug-testing service to "clear" or "cover" me.

The point I was trying to make is that even if I had the "courage" to do this, I would literally be "pissing in the wind" if I refused the test and let them fire me for it or refused the test and resigned. I would be simply labeled "a druggie" and added to the statistics being used to "prove" that they were "doing something" about the problem.

6:16 -

I have no idea what you are up to, but it I can't quite imagine how it is intended to help anyone...

Can you explain your motives for making up such a statement as "you don't have the courage" when you couldn't possibly know one way or the other?

I don't know how much courage it takes to "piss into the wind", why don't you go outside and try it and let us all know.

- Darko

darko said...

10:44 -

Thanks for the hints of exactly what STFU stands for... I couldn't quite parse it the first time. I am a sometimes C student myself (except those math and science classes). I don't do anagrams or crosswords all that well.. somehow they bore me.

6:16 -

On that note, let's escalate this another notch, eh?

I highly doubt that you say "STFU" to anyone's face. Most folks who talk like that are total losers whose courage comes from anonymity. The rest are bullies who only speak that way when the believe they have the upper hand.

Whether you are the lily-livered loser I suspect you are, or an asshole bully, you would find that if you delivered that kind of rudeness to me in person, we would both end up with more than a few contusions and abrasions.

Well maybe mostly just you. There is nothing quite as satisfying as sucker-punching an asshole bully. If you are just a pathetic loser, I'd be happy to get down and dirty and roll around on the ground with you a little before we finish your short-course in "politeness".

I like a good streetfight myself, even if I take the bad end of it. So do you really want the next dance? Just say so.

Divide and conquer. Yup!

We are pathetic.

- Darko

Anonymous said...

OK, everyone get off the computer and go cut your grass or something.

I'm against drug testing but if you are willing to accept that illegal drugs are a problem (if you don't you are not being realistic)at LANL, what is your solution for dealing with the problem?

No fair sticking your head in the sand.

Come on...lets hear the solutions.

Anonymous said...

5% (10 of 200) is a pretty high rate for truly "random" testing here...

rate=random What????

strange love needs a test

Anonymous said...

Yeah, how is the Orange Stripe Brigade going to solve the drug problem?

I'm all ears....


John said...

Hey 6:52 AM,

If illegal drugs are a problem at LANL, how does this manifest itself? Solely through the Jessica Quintana incident? Because there were multiple issues going on there. She didn't bring out classified docs because she was a drug user.

So if it is unrealistic as you say to claim that illegal drug use is not a problem at LANL; that suggests that the problems caused by illegal drug use at LANL are obvious. I'm not seeing these problems? The problems I see all stem from shitty upper level LANS management. Is that your point? Those new Bechtel types are druggies?

The old policy was appropriate: suspect behavior was cause for a test. If the illegal drug use problems are obvious, then there must be manifest symptoms which management can identify and test appropriately. But this seems to contradict what you said.

Please explain what LANL problems can't be solved with the previous policy and that therefore require additional random testing.

Also, to 5/18/07 6:15 PM, who said lots of businesses do testing and therefore we should accept it. Since when did "everyone else is doing it" become an acceptable argument. Try thinking for yourself and evaluating things based solely on their own merits. If others have done it, that's useful. Find their justifications and see if you agree. But their mere act of doing it doesn't justify it.

Oh, and Doc? Please keep your voice strong. It's not going into a void. I'm normally silent on these blogs but I'm reading and I feel so much less lonely knowing there are other outraged parties out there. Much much appreciation to you and Pinky and Brain and Calvin.

Anonymous said...

Like wow, man! You all are one bunch of up tight duds! Chill, why don't you? I've been stoned since I was a junior in High School and I retired about a few years ago from the nuclear Navy, did a contracting stint with the DOE and now, who would have guessed..I'm one of the gifted Lab leaders around these parts. So light up and just be happy for a change. Life is too short. I'm now a manager at the Lab today not because I'm one of the anal retaintiffs you see in the mirror every morning. not one Nor am I one of the butt-head staff. So I don't. have to worry about being tested. I just love it!

Anonymous said...

and why hasn't the lab been running stories on this on the non-news Bulletin? They yap about every piece of drivel and go on and on about the drug testing and then give ZERO information on the results and exactly WHAT 10 out of 200 means. The numbers in and of themselves and meaningless. When I tested the guy told me they planned to test about 50 employees a day? And now they've only done 200? In a month? FIVE per day? for how many million of dollars?

Another prize for the Bush administration: spend trillions of dollars around the world and have NOTHING to show for it.

Anonymous said...

Now, greatly after the fact, C-students have retroactively decided that I must take drug tests and polygraphs, just to cover their fat asses.

.....come is now revenge of the D students

Anonymous said...

Yeah. The ones posting on this blog.

Dr. Strangelove said...


"rate=random WHAT?"

Our point is that 10/200 implies 5% "failed" the test. If a truly random sample is being taken, then this suggests that there are, in fact, something like 5% of LANL employees using (detectable) illegal drugs. We think that number is high.

If, on the other hand, the tests are not random but are based on "reasonable suspicion", then 5% might be more expected.

Hugely fewer than 1/20 of the people We know who work at LANL are very likely to be illegal drug users... maybe we just don't know the right folks!

- Doc