How do you handle employee drug abuse?

Do you have a “Charlie Sheen” working for you?  Recently, famous actor Charlie Sheen made headlines for his alleged drug abuse, odd behavior, and legal problems.  His very public rants against his employer included verbal attacks, lawsuit threats, and bizarre accusations.  The result?  Shows were cancelled, dozens of people were laid off, and bad publicity spread everywhere.  You probably do not have any employees as high-profile as Mr. Sheen, but a drug abusing employee can still sabotage your company.

What should you do if you suspect an employee is under-the-influence?  Be careful not to make unfounded accusations (which could result in a lawsuit), but definitely do not ignore the situation.  An employee might be impaired due to prescriptions, alcohol, over-the-counter medications, or illicit drugs.  Such a person could be a danger to himself, co-workers, customers, or innocent bystanders.  This person must be dealt with before something worse happens.  Nevertheless, realize that there could be other reasons for odd behavior: emotional stress, psychological problems, or even sleep deprivation.

Unless you have definite evidence of drug or alcohol abuse, keep the confrontation to the issue of job performance.  Obviously, the employee’s performance has become impaired enough to catch your attention.  Hold the person accountable for their misbehavior, poor performance, and/or unprofessionalism.  If you do have direct evidence of drug or alcohol abuse, then you can consider confronting the employee with the facts.  Be sure to document all such employee discipline in writing.

Do you need a written Drug and Alcohol Abuse Policy?  Yes, most definitely.  Some employers have lost Unemployment Insurance claims simply for firing employees without having this in writing.  The Drug Policy should address on-the-job usage, being under the influence at work, off-duty drug convictions,  and consequences for violating the Policy.

Can you force a person to take a drug test?  Drug testing laws differ by state, so be aware of your local regulations.   Even states that allow testing, set strict standards to prevent a company from using drug tests as a way to harass or discriminate.  Most require a written drug testing policy that is distributed to all employees, establishing your rules for everyone to understand.  Also, there is usually a waiting period before a drug testing policy can be implemented. 

Usually, an Drug Testing Policy allows for one or more of the following types of testing:
1. New Hires
2. After an accident or incident
3. Random testing
4. Return-to-duty testing
5. Legally-required testing (required of certain industries/ jobs)

How do you create a Drug Abuse Policy or Drug Testing Policy?  Either of these policies should be included as part of your company’s Employee Handbook.  If you do not have a current Drug and Alcohol Abuse Policy, then it is time to get one.  Consider having an Employee Handbook made for your company that includes such a policy.  We recommend using an Employee Handbook Service.

One thought on “How do you handle employee drug abuse?

  1. Some employers have lost Unemployment Insurance claims simply for firing employees without having this in writing. The Drug Policy should address on-the-job usage, being under the influence at work, off-duty drug convictions, and consequences for violating the Policy.

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