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What do you do when an employee is drinking at work?

by | Mar 4, 2019 | Business Law |

What do you do when you suspect that one of your employees is reaching for “liquid courage” throughout the day at work?

It’s hardly surprising that employers frequently have to deal with on-the-job drinking by their employees. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, one out of every 12 adults abuses alcohol. Since a drunk employee exposes your company to professional and physical danger, you need to take action.

Here’s how to start:

1. Take careful note of your employee’s condition.

Is your employee’s speech slurred? Do you observe an unsteady gait or trouble with hand-eye coordination? Is the employee dozing off at their desk? Do you smell alcohol on them?

Note all of these observations without drawing conclusions, because it’s always possible that your employee is actually suffering from an illness or reacting to a medication. If so, you need to tread lightly to protect yourself against disability discrimination charges.

2. With another member of management present, talk with the employee.

Let your employee know that you’re removing them from duty for the time being for safety reasons. Find out if your employee can offer any explanation for their condition.

Explain that you will need a drug and alcohol test to ensure that your employee isn’t violating the company’s policies. Continue to avoid drawing conclusions about your employee’s situation until you have proof.

3. Have the employee tested at your expense.

Whatever your ordinary procedure for drug and alcohol testing, you can follow it — so long as you don’t allow an employee who may be inebriated to drive. Then, take the employee home. You don’t want to incur any liability for an accident if your employee is intoxicated.

If your employee refuses to be tested, explain that you’ll have to rely on your drug and alcohol policy and discipline the employee accordingly.

If the results of the test come back as you suspect, you can then decide how to handle the situation. For some companies, immediate termination may be mandatory. Others may want to offer a valued employee a second chance — with conditions, of course.

Disgruntled employees don’t always take termination easily, so relying on company policy in these kinds of situations is always wise. If a wrongful termination lawsuit erupts over the issue, you’ll know that you have good documentation to support your position in court.


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