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HR Insights with Ali: What to Do if You Suspect an Employee is Using Drugs


Posted on 2/22/2017 by Ali Oromchian, Esq.
Running a business is a tricky thing. On one hand, you want your office to be an enjoyable place to work, and you want to treat your employees like family. But at the same time, you have to maintain professionalism and ensure that you are protecting your practice at all times. Therefore, you cannot always tolerate, or protect, employees who are not meeting minimum performance standards or who are committing policy violations, even if you would like to keep that worker employed or otherwise take actions to help. One way this situation often arises is when an employee is abusing drugs.

When you have an employee that you suspect of using drugs or alcohol, you are technically allowed to drug test them; however, you should have very clear and specific reasons to pinpoint a single person to be tested; in other words, it should be obvious that the person is drunk or high. But even so, sometimes the best option is not to conduct a drug test right then. Rather, send the employee home and later have a conversation with him or her about what has been going on. You can ask questions such as, “Is there anything I should know that would impair your ability to fulfill your job?” There are many scenarios that could be going on in the employee’s life, so this conversation may lead to a multitude of different responses. This route could be preferable when you have a usually well-performing employee. As always, documentation of how the employee is performing or behaving is important, because if you’re not quite ready to see where that conversation goes, you want to document everything that has been happening so you can point to concrete evidence if the situation gets worse.

Remember you could always test the whole office, in order to confirm your suspicions about an employee without singling that one person out. However, if you choose to drug test your entire office, you have to be ready for the potential that other employees may test positive as well. With drugs like marijuana being more common and less taboo these days, it is possible that someone who is a great, focused employee, also partakes in marijuana on the weekend. If you’re trying to flush out one person, this could backfire and you would have to proceed equally with everyone who tests positive.

How you address potential substance abuse concerns among your staff is a personal decision. But HR for Health can assist you with performance management and time tracking systems which will relieve the burden of documenting issues with employee performance and production. Plus, our notes section is a great tool for recording policy violations and performance concerns that can be very helpful in the court of reviews or termination discussions. If you have any questions about our performance solutions, simply open a support ticket titled “Performance issues” and we will be here to help in any way we can.
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