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Look out for Signs of Employee Drug Abuse

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 06, 2015 12:58 PM

A trusted employee has been missing more days of work than usual. His productivity is down and co-workers are complaining about his attitude. In this and similar situations, it's possible that your employee may be dealing with substance abuse.

Here are some signs of drug abuse to look out for:

Signs of Drug Abuse

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD), employee drug abuse costs employers over $80 billion annually. You can save your business money by watching out for telltale signs of drug abuse, such as:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Distraction or lack of focus
  • Lower productivity or lower quality of work
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Erratic behavior

If you noticed signs of drug abuse, what can you do?

Dealing With Employee Drug Abuse

Technically, for at-will employees, you can fire them at any time for any reason. However, you may want to avoid such rash behavior. Instead, take the following steps first to deal with possible employee drug use:

  1. Document, document, document -- Before you take any action, be sure to document your observations. Keep your documentation neutral and only include what you observed and not your opinions or suspicions.
  2. Consult your drug policy -- Does your company have a drug policy? What procedures are laid out in the employee handbook? Look over your drug policy again and make sure you follow the steps laid out therein. Also, consult your business attorney to see what steps you should take to protect against an employee complaint later on.
  3. Confront and confirm -- Speak with your employee, preferably in a private setting. You can ask your employee to explain the reason for the behavioral changes you noticed. If state law and your drug policy allows for it, conduct a drug test to confirm your suspicions. Just remember that the drug test must be done voluntarily, and all information must be kept confidential.
  4. Take action -- Once you've confirmed your employee's drug abuse, there are several steps you can take. If the employee's job performance is hurt by the drug use, you may consider firing the employee. However, the process of hiring a new employee can cost you a lot of time and money. If you want to keep your employee, consider implementing an Employee Assistance Program to help employees deal with drug abuse issues and get treatment. The NCADD claims that employers can save as much as $16 for every dollar invested in an EAP program.

If you need help dealing with employee drug abuse, consult an experienced employment lawyer for advice.

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