Employee drug abuse in the workplace can lead to a wide variety of problems, many of which can affect your company’s bottom line. Whether the drug happens to be alcohol, prescription medication or illegal substances, and regardless of whether the use is occurring during working hours or on the employee’s personal time, the results can include:
- Decreased performance
- Increase in tardiness and absenteeism
- Lower productivity
- Higher employee turnover
- Increase in expenses associated with medical care and workers’ comp
- Increased risk of workplace violence
Not only do these things affect the employee in question and the company as a whole, but they can also have a negative impact on other employees, leading to a host of other problems. To avoid this, management and those in HR must be proactive and vigilant so potential issues can be addressed swiftly and effectively. If you suspect that one or more of your employees may be abusing drugs, here are 7 steps to get the situation under control.
Develop a Clear-Cut Policy – In order to legally take action against a worker who is abusing drugs or alcohol, you must first have a policy in place that addresses such situations. For optimum results, your employee drug abuse policy should include the ability to test in the event of reasonable suspicion. The policy should be in writing and all employees should sign off acknowledging their understanding and agreement. If you don’t have such a policy in place, consult with your legal counsel to ensure proper implementation.
Watch for Warning Signs – An employee who is abusing drugs or alcohol may not always be blatantly intoxicated. Therefore, it’s important to know what warning signs and red flags may indicate possible employee drug abuse so they can be identified and tracked. Some common things to watch for include sudden change in behavior, excessive tardiness or sick days, withdrawal from others (i.e. the sudden desire to work alone, away from co-workers and/or supervision).
Train Those in Charge – HR representatives may not be able to identify the signs of potential drug abuse right away because they aren’t in direct contact with workers in every department. That’s why front-line managers should be properly trained and advised of their role in spotting red flags as well as the appropriate steps for documenting and reporting such suspicions.
Keep a Detailed Record – Employment laws protect workers from being unjustly disciplined or terminated, so be sure to do your due diligence. Any and all cases of suspected employee drug abuse should be clearly documented. This will help you establish your case and protect you from any potential backlash.
Meet with a Witness – Once a case of suspected employee drug abuse has been properly observed and documented, the next step is meeting with the worker in question to discuss the suspicions and a proposed plan of action. A witness should always be present to keep detailed notes and provide a third-party account of what occurs. Go over your company policy and discuss the appropriate next steps.
Test (When Allowed) – It’s important to note that drug testing is a legal issue and therefore should always involve the advice and/or guidance of an appropriate legal representative. Provided that you have the authority to legally do so, follow through with drug testing, either at designated intervals or when a suspicion arises.
Take Action – Depending on the regulations in your area, as well as what’s set forth in your company policy, the appropriate action should be taken when suspected employee drug abuse occurs. This may be a warning, a suspension or termination of employment. Remember to always stay within your legal rights based on what the employment laws in your state allow. When in question, always consult with a legal professional.
Of course, some companies find it too tedious to follow up on suspected employee drug abuse. If you find yourself in this boat, enlisting the help of an experienced private investigator can help alleviate some of the burden and help you focus on what’s most important: protecting your other employees and your reputation. Give us a call and let’s discuss how we can help!