Addressing Employee Alcohol and Drug Issues

Our Employer Assistance Program helps identify and intervene appropriately with employees who may be using substances at work.

Identifying and intervening appropriately with employees who use are using substances at work can be very challenging for employers. What’s the best way to approach suspected users? What are the legal implications of calling them out? And, how do you treat marijuana use, as legislation continues to evolve?

Ignoring the problem is not the answer, since drug and alcohol use has been linked to more on-the-job accidents and higher medical claims expenses. According to a study published by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the annual cost of a single employee with an untreated substance use disorder ranges from $2,600 to more than $13,000, depending on the industry.

Fortunately, there are steps employers can take to gain control of this timely issue. One of the most effective methods for addressing substance use in the workplace is the adoption of a policy that includes mandatory drug testing for employees who appear to be impaired on the job. Under most jurisdictions, an employer is permitted to require an employee to undergo a drug test when there is “reasonable suspicion” that an employee is under the influence.

Testing as a result of reasonable suspicion

The required observations for alcohol and/or controlled substances that constitute Reasonable Suspicion testing are based upon specific, objective, and articulable facts concerning an employee’s appearance, behavior, speech, or body odors. According to Cornell Law School, the observation shall be made by a supervisor or company official who is trained to recognize substance use in the workplace.

Locally, Preferred EAP offers training and education for employers and supervisors on the skills necessary for making determinations about reasonable suspicion. The two-hour session meets Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requirements. However, while all company personnel can benefit from this comprehensive industry standard training, it is possible to abbreviate the content for organizations that are not required to follow Department of Transportation regulations.

“Reasonable Suspicion training is conducted in a class-room-style setting by a licensed mental health professional,” says Carolyn Lamparella, Ed.S, LPC, Program Director. “If an organization is unable to provide the space and equipment necessary for the training, alternate accommodations can be arranged through EAP.”

Assisting with Follow-Up

With professional counselors on staff, Preferred EAP can become a reliable resource for employees on the often long-term road back to peak productivity. The staff can help by:

  • Demonstrating the employer’s commitment to a drug-free workplace and eliminating illegal drug use
  • Providing employees an opportunity to obtain the most appropriate drug and alcohol treatment
  • Providing educational materials to supervisors and employees on issues related to substance use in the workplace
  • Assisting supervisors in confronting employees who have performance and/or conduct problems
  • Making referrals to appropriate treatment and rehabilitative facilities
  • Following up with individuals during the rehabilitation period to track their progress
  • Encouraging successful completion of a counseling program
  • Negotiating a return to work contract to ensure the best possible outcome for both the employee and the employer

The reasons for employers to develop comprehensive drug and alcohol policies continue to grow. Doing so sends a clear message to your employees and customers that maintaining a positive, drug-free work environment is a high priority. Most importantly, you’ll be supporting a safer workplace and better quality of life for your employees.

Reasonable Suspicion: Managing Substance Abuse in the Workplace

How does an employer tell if someone is abusing drugs or alcohol? How do you handle it if they are?

The help you need to support your employees

Crisis support, management training, or employee counseling. We are here when you need us.