THE ORANGE COUNTY (Calif.) Register fired or disciplined 76 employees following a four-month investigation of drug and alcohol abuse at the paper’s main facility in Santa Ana.
Peggy Castellano, the newspaper’s vice president of human resources, said the workers represented a variety of departments, excluding editorial. The Register, the flagship of Freedom Newspapers Inc., has approximately 2,800 full- and part-time workers.
A Register announcement said the investigation by a San Diego consulting firm came after a number of employees and employee spouses told the paper’s managers of “a serious problem of drug and alcohol sale, purchase and use at the plant.”
A Register story about the incident said Santa Ana police officials had held discussions with investigators for the consulting company but that no information was shared with the police and that no arrests were expected.
The Register also published an unusual editorial explaining the apparent contradiction between the actions against its employees and the Libertarian philosophy of the newspaper, which has called for an end to the government’s “war on drugs,” and has endorsed drug legalization.
” …Our calls for legalization have never arisen from a permissive outlook that smiles on personal drug use as a positive activity, but from a well-considered conclusion that the drug war has not only failed but exacerbated that social affliction,” said the editorial.
Castellano said that most of the workers caught up in the probe were terminated. Those keeping their jobs were suspended for two weeks and will be subject to random drug testing during the year, she added. The Register has offered rehabilitative help to those who request it.
Castellano pointed out that the Register has long had a well-publicized drug and alcohol policy, which has been emphasized by division managers.
After the recent findings by the outside undercover agents, Register publisher Dave Threshie issued a staff memo saying that drug and alcohol violations had convinced the company that “we needed to take additional steps to protect our associates and to provide a safe, productive work environment.
“It is important for all of you to understand that this investigation was conducted as a last resort in an effort to remove drug and alcohol abuse from our workplace, and was conducted only after serious and thoughtful deliberation.”