When Current Employees test Positive?

The big questions is what to do when a current employee tests positive. Disciplining discharge in house counseling and referral to an outside agency are the four traditional prescriptions. Most professionals seem to counsel treatment rather than outright dismissal, at lest initially and also emphasize that whether it’s the supervisor or just a friend that notices the employee’s problem the worst thing to do is ignore it.

In practice, each employer tends to develop its own approach to dealing with substance abuse. One human resource manager says we present the employee with the option of a mandatory professional assessment (which may result in rehab and /or counseling depending on the results of the assessment). If the employee refuses the professional assessment, employment is terminated. Another describes her company’s policy this way:

Some employers have zero tolerance and terminate immediately. Some employers don’t have a choice (pharmaceutical labs, or example), others are lenient. Our policy is there strikes and you’re out process. The first step is a warning notification and permission given to us to test the employees at any time we want – for a period of five years. The second step is mandatory substances abuse rehabilitation program at the employer’s own expense. The third step is immediate termination for causes.

Substances Abuse Policies:

Employers should establish and communicate a substance abuse policy. This policy should state management’s position on alcohol and drug abuse and on the use and possession of illegal drugs on company premises. It should also list the methods (such as urinalysis) used to determine the causes of poor performance state the company’s views on rehabilitation including workplace counseling and specify penalties for policy violations. Additional steps employers take include conducting workplace inspections (searching employees for illegal substances) and using undercover agents.

Supervisor Training

Training supervisor to identify alcoholics or drug abusers and the problems they create is advisable,. However, supervisors are in a tricky positions: They should be the company‘s first line of defense in combating workplace drug abuse, but should avoid becoming detectives or medical diagnostics. Guidelines supervisors should follow include these:

1) if an employee appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol ask how the employee feels and look for signs of impairment such as slurred speech. Send an employee judged unfit for duty home.
2) Make a written record of your observations and follow up each incident. In addition, inform workers the number of warnings the company will tolerate before requiring termination.
3) Refer troubled employees to the company’s employee assistance program.

The Know Your employment law feature explains some legal maters to consider.

Stress, Burnout, and Depression

Problems such as alcoholism and drug abuse sometimes reflect underlying psychological causes such as stress and depression .For example, factors such as over work and problems with supervisor or customers may eventually put the person under so much stress that a pathological reaction such as drug abuse occurs.

A variety of external factors can lead to job stress . These includes work schedule, pace of work job security route to and from work, and the number and nature of customers or clients. Even noise including people talking ad telephones ringing, contributes to stress.

However, personal factors also influence stress. For example, Type A personalities – people who are workaholics and who feel driven to always be on time and meet deadlines – normally place themselves under greater stress than others. Add to job stress the stress caused by non job problems like divorce and, as you might imagine, many workers are problems waiting to happen.

Job stress has serious consequences for both employer and employee. The human consequences include anxiety, depression, anger, and various physical consequences such as cardiovascular diseases, headaches and accidents. For the organizations consequences include reductions in the quantity and quality of performance and increased absenteeism and turnover. A study of 46,000 employees concluded that high stress workers health care costs were 46% higher than those of their less stressed co-workers.