Stopping Substance Abuse in the Workplace:
SUCCESS DEPENDS ON YOU!
As supervisors and managers you have the responsibility to get the work of your organization done. You cannot accomplish this if your staff freely uses drugs and/or alcohol on the job. Employees who work while under the influence of substances are absent more often, make more serious mistakes, have dismal productivity records, may steal to obtain funds for drugs and are emotionally problematical with other employees. Drug and alcohol use makes your job far more difficult. The high cost of employee turnover alone will absorb tremendous amounts of your own time in trying to maintain an adequate staff. Wasted time locating and training large numbers of new employees will distract you from your core business. Drugs have no business at work and it is up to you to keep them out.
Supervisory and Management Duties:
In order to maintain a drug free environment, all supervisors and management personnel must
understand that having a substance abuse policy is just the beginning. Special emphasis should be placed on the responsibilities supervisors have in enforcing the rule. The following are the special requirements of supervisors and management:
1. Read and thoroughly understand your Company Substance Abuse Policy.
2. A supervisory training session is mandatory under the Federal Guidelines and very advisable for any employer. During this training session, the Company Substance Abuse Policy should be
3. Each supervisor should meet with the employees in their charge. Again, the Company
Substance Abuse policy should be thoroughly discussed. Explain the limits of the policy, what the
policy prohibits and how it will be implemented. There will be a lot of “what if” questions. Handle each one clearly and honestly. Some of the questions that will probably arise are similar to the following:
- When will the policy start?
- Which drugs will be included in the drug test?
- What about prescription drugs? (Only physician’ prescribed drugs are allowed.)
- Is alcohol allowed? (Not during work hours, before work or during breaks.)
- What are the penalties for violating this policy?
- Are we going to be tested for drugs?
- Are we going to have urine tests?
- What happens if I refuse to take a drug test? (Explain that refusal will be considered voluntary resignation as a refusal of a reasonable work order).
- Will the test be confirmed?
- Will the results be confidential?
- If someone tests positive and applies for work elsewhere will that employer be told about a positive test? (No).
4. Your role as a supervisor is to direct the activities of your staff and to regularly monitor their
performance. As far as the Company Substance Abuse policy is concerned, your job is also evaluating your employees’ fitness to perform their duties. You are not required to diagnose drug addiction or use. You must implement the policy, including drug testing and then follow the procedures of the policy.
Substance Abuse Testing.
There are two components to a substance abuse test. The first is the screening method that is
designed to detect the presence of a particular class of drugs. If a positive result is obtained with a screening test, a confirmation test must be conducted. Confirmation testing is performed in a
laboratory setting and most often utilizes a methodology called Gas Chromatography – Mass
Spectrometry (GC/MS). The courts recognize GC/MS as a legally defensible method for detecting
the presence of drugs of abuse. Samples for confirmation testing are collected utilizing special
collection kits and are then sent to the lab for analysis.
Positive alcohol screens are confirmed by a blood test or more commonly at a licensed Breathalyzer facility based in a local occupation health clinic.
Confidentiality is critical.
All records throughout the process must be kept secure. Confidentiality is required throughout the
process. Notes you make during the interview, results of the medical examination, the Consent
Form, Test Requisition Form and notations on results must be held in strict confidentiality.
Under no circumstances discuss anything about this situation with anyone who is not authorized.
Do not discuss results of the investigation with anyone over the phone claiming to represent the
employee. If an attorneys’ office calls wanting to receive the file you should require a notarized
release from the employee. If unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits are applied for
you may release drug test information, if relevant, since the employee essentially gave their
release by the act of applying for benefits.
There is no benefit to a Substance Abuse Policy until it is implemented and applied
equally to all employees.