Workplace addiction is expensive and dangerous if it is left unaddressed by the employer. Businesses are typically unaware of the negative effects of substance abuse on their bottom lines due to lost productivity and absenteeism, turnover, healthcare costs, and workers’ compensation. Employers can implement substance use policies and provide guidance to employees experiencing addiction problems at work.
Adopt a Policy on Substance Abuse
Employers have several options when it comes to dealing with employees who have substance abuse problems. Drug testing may help your organization stay in compliance with federal regulations and keep your employees fit for work. According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL), every company should also have a documented drug-free workplace policy that is communicated to all employees and clearly defines expectations on alcohol and drug use.
A substance abuse policy can cover the use of legal and illegal drugs and the types of inappropriate behaviors related to substance abuse. It can outline consequences if an employee shows signs of substance abuse and addiction at work including but not limited to leave of absence and termination.
Employer Assistance Programs (EAP) are available through the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). EAPs provide support and treatment options for addiction patients and their loved ones. If your business transacts over $100,000 with the federal government or receives federal funding of any amount, you must comply with the Drug-Free Workplace Act. The Drug-Free Workplace Act mandates that employers post a statement warning employees that using, distributing, dispensing, possessing, or manufacturing controlled substances is illegal in the workplace.
Consider Your Company’s Actions When You Write Your Substance Abuse Policy
You may implement a zero-tolerance policy and take disciplinary action, including termination, if an employee’s behavior is related to alcohol or drug abuse. The company must document any steps it takes to address such issues. In a drug-free workplace, employers are not required to excuse the use of drugs or alcohol on the job.
However, you can be open to other approaches in your workplace for your policy. Your company may refer employees experiencing drug abuse problems to an EAP based on observed and documented behavior and performance concerns. Many employers offer their employees assistance instead of termination, including time off for treatment and a return-to-work agreement. Your state’s laws or the Family and Medical Leave Act might cover time off for addiction treatment. We strongly encourage all employers to work collaboratively with their attorney when developing their substance abuse policy.
Employers should be prepared to implement drug-free workplace policies, including having Narcan on hand and staff trained in their administration. Supervisors must understand the policy and be aware of any legally sensitive areas. Additionally, any concerns must be properly documented in a fair and systematic manner.
Recognize Symptoms Of Substance Abuse And Addiction In The Workplace
An intoxicated employee may have erratic behavior, dilated pupils, and slurred speech. Addicts exhibit a variety of symptoms, such as:
- Excessive absences or tardiness at work. If you notice a pattern, such as an employee calling in sick on Mondays or on paydays, you should take note.
- A change in appearance includes wearing dirty or wrinkled clothes and overlooking personal hygiene
- Fatigue at work
- Physical symptoms include alcohol on the breath (or use of breath mints and gum continuously), sweating, or an appearance of being disoriented.
- Mood swings such as withdrawing from coworkers and becoming irritable or paranoid
- Frequent trips to the restroom and parking lot during the day that include errands
All employees can note an employee’s behavior firsthand and report it to management or human resources. An observer from management or HR should meticulously record any unusual behavior without attempting analysis. After the incident has been well documented, they must examine what they know and have observed in order to identify the next steps.
Confront Employees Carefully
Employers need to exercise caution when dealing with employees who may have substance abuse issues. A prescription drug or an allergy could be the cause of the symptoms. One of the most effective ways of addressing suspected addiction is through performance conversations. A productive discussion of behavioral or performance issues directly can open up the door to more candid dialogue.
If you discover that an employee has abused substances, consider not only your company’s substance abuse policy but the overall history with the employee and the impact of the misuse on the company and the workplace. Additionally, you can look at how other companies have dealt with similar situations of substance abuse.
An employee may cite family issues or recent medical issues as reasons for their performance at work. Also, they may have difficulties managing their health condition and adjusting to new medications. You may initiate conversations about available leave options to get treatment if an employee admits a substance abuse problem.
Workplace Substance Abuse Prevention Works
Employers can create a supportive and empathic work environment to feel comfortable receiving addiction treatment. A zero-tolerance policy for substance abuse in the workplace may be beneficial for everyone involved. But when you can give your employees a second chance, whether through a leave of absence or a referral to the company’s EAP, you can help them in the long run.
Dr. Fletcher is a certified Substance Abuse Professional. We offer drug and alcohol testing programs as well as Return-To-Duty evaluations.