The FDNY has a random drug testing program. When a Company is chosen by computer as the subject of a random drug test, the BITS Drug Testing Unit will come to that Company’s firehouse without notice. Presumably they will wait until the Company is in quarters before announcing their presence.
When the Drug Testing Unit arrives, the firefighter on house watch should request the names and proper identification for each investigator and record that information in the Company Journal. He or she also should note the times when the investigators arrive and depart.
The investigators usually will direct that the firefighter on house watch NOT announce their presence over the firehouse intercom. They have the right to do so. They also have the right to direct that the officer instruct the members that they must stay in one particular location in the firehouse while urine samples are collected from the members.
The UFA and Department agreed to a new policy in February 2017 allowing the UFA/UFOA to witness the Random Drug Testing Unit’s computer printing of the companies next up for testing. The purpose of this was to verify that the company was truly chosen at random. The UFA/UFOA will sign the back of each form and be able to challenge the Department on any unusual patterns of companies being tested.
Individual Drug Tests
In addition to random testing, BITS can obtain a drug test if they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe that a member is impaired.
If any BITS representatives arrive to perform drug testing other than on a random basis, the firefighters involved should immediately contact their UFA Trustee to determine whether there is any basis to object to the test. If you have signed a “Testing Stipulation,” there is no question that the test is proper and you need not notify the UFA. Other than those circumstances, however, you should contact the UFA so that an objection can be raised where appropriate.
You need to be mindful of the general proposition governing civil service employees, which is known as “Obey Now – Grieve Later.” This doctrine requires employees to obey orders, even if they think they are not proper, and file an appropriate grievance or other objection at a later date.
There are only a few exceptions to the “Obey Now – Grieve Later” doctrine, such as the following:
- When the order is clearly unlawful
- When the order is clearly in excess of authority under the Collective Bargaining Agreement
- When obeying the order would create an imminent and serious health threat to the member
In most cases, it is advisable to obey an order and, with the assistance of the UFA, present your objections in an appropriate grievance or other judicial proceeding at a later time.
If you have any questions about your rights, contact your attorneys, Michael Block and T.J. McManus, at 212-732-9000.