employee substance abuse

What to do When you Suspect an Employee of Substance Abuse

In Long-Term Recovery by Rebecca Flad

Whether the problem is big or small, it’s never okay to idly stand by when an employee is under the influence during work. Even so, whether the employee suffering from substance abuse at work or before work, measures should be taken to ensure a safe workplace as well as a healthy and stable employee.

Substance Abuse and the Workplace

An employee can pose many problems and issues when they’re found out to be under the influence or abusing substances before or after work. Some of these problems include:

  • low productivity
  • decreased work performance
  • tardiness and absence
  • workplace violence
  • inappropriate workplace behavior
  • increased medical and workers’ comp. bills
  • overactivity
  • workplace damage
  • employer liability issues

What to Look Out For

A typical employee suffering from substance abuse will often convey the following signs:

  • bloodshot eyes
  • alcohol smell or odors
  • excessive absences or leaving early
  • drowsiness
  • overactivity
  • slurring of words
  • incomprehension
  • dilated eyes
  • excessive sweating
  • irritability

What to do When You Suspect an Employee of Substance Abuse

Check Your Policy and Coverage

Every business should have a written drug and alcohol testing policy that indicates when an employee will be tested. This usually happens when a person has enough evidence and/or backed up suspicions of substance abuse. Your policy should not be too general as the employee would be able to refuse a test despite certain evidence and suspicion.

Some businesses have insurance coverage for employees suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Your insurance company should be contacted to determine what treatment is covered and available to the employee should they be found suffering from substance abuse. Depending on your policy, your company’s insurance could vary, so it’s important to look into that before offering company-provided treatment.

Observe and Document

As a business owner or CEO, you may not notice whether or not an employee is having substance abuse issues. You may even hear it from subordinates, co-workers or even clients. If you hear any suspicions coming from any individual, you should advise them to observe and document it. All suspicion should be documented, and a superior authority should also begin taking notice and observing while looking for key signs of substance abuse.

If there are any complaints or concerns they should also be documented. When you observe the suspected employee all documentation should be specific and detailed as to what was observed.

Take Action: Confront and Test

Once everything has been documented and there is meaningful cause to suspect an employee of substance abuse, you should schedule a meeting with the employee. All observances and documentation should be discussed, and a first-hand witness and/or second party is encouraged to be present. Threats should not be made as an employee or superior and, instead, a voice of concern should be present.

Depending on your company policy, a drug test may be issued. A consent form should be immediately available prior to any testing. If the employee wishes to keep their position, they will consent to the test. But denying the drug test will result in immediate termination and is treated as a positive test result. If the employee does consent, consider providing transportation to the testing facility and/or room.

You’ve Got the Results, What Now?

Usually, if the substance test results come back negative, the employee is able to resume work immediately. However, if it is positive, depending on your coverage, you may be able to send them to treatment or counseling. Following treatment, the employee will usually be able to return to work. An employer does, however, have the option to terminate the employee due to positive test results.

If your company’s coverage does not cover treatment, a suggestion can be made to the employee for them to check themselves into a rehab or counseling and return to work post recovery.