When You Suspect an Employee is Under the Influence

employee pre screening, employee background check, credit check employeeMost employee manuals are clear about using alcohol or drugs (other than prescribed medication) on the job: it’s a big no-no. That doesn’t mean employees don’t have problems with alcohol or drugs to the point that they use during working hours. If you’re an employer, you will likely run into this problem, if you haven’t already.

What can an Employer Do When an Employee is Using Drugs or Alcohol on the Job?

  • Don’t ignore the problem. If it’s happening, other employees probably know about it. They are probably uncomfortable about it. At the very least, it is creating a negative environment; in any case, it is a potential safety issue and your customers, employees, and the public are at risk of harm. So if you smell beer or marijuana on an employee, see red eyes, notice they’re having trouble concentrating or walking in a straight line—that is the time to act.
  • Have the conversation. As difficult as it may be, if you have reason to believe an employee is using drugs or alcohol on the job, or coming to work under the influence, by all means ask. Do it discreetly, in private. Make sure you have someone else in the room with you, besides the person you’re questioning.
  • Use whatever disciplinary action you have available. If the employee manual states that drinking or using drugs on the job is grounds for termination, then you have a decision to make. Does the use directly affect others? Does it put others or the employee in danger? What about customers and the general public? What is the affect on the company if the employee’s actions have the worst outcome? Note: If the employee manual does not address employees who come to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you probably need to expand on that topic.
  • Show you care, but don’t preach or give advice. Remember, it’s your responsibility as the employer to enforce the rules and keep everyone safe. It’s not your job to provide counseling. If your company has an employee assistance plan, refer the person to HR for more information.
  • Beware: employees with chronic drinking or drug problems may be covered under the American with Disabilities Act. Be sure you have sound legal counsel when dealing with this situation. For example, you may not be able to terminate an employee for being an alcoholic; however, an employee’s inability to meet productivity standards is a different story.
  • Similarly, drug testing is a sticky area for employers. You need to be keenly aware of the laws in your state to avoid any illegal testing or violating privacy laws. Seek legal advice before doing any drug testing.

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