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Addressing Workplace Alcohol Issues: The FBI's Approach

NCJ Number
Travis K. Sorrows M.Ed.
Date Published
11 pages
This article discusses the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) alcohol policy.
This article begins with a historical review of the FBI’s current alcohol policy, starting with the 1970 enactment of Public Law 91-616, the “Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Act.” This law mandates the establishment and maintenance of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation programs and services for alcoholism and alcohol abuse among Federal civilian employees. Prior to this law, alcoholism and alcohol abuse incidents within the FBI were handled strictly as disciplinary matters, usually by dismissal. In 1973, the FBI’s Alcohol Program was created and designed to assist employees through referrals to appropriate community resources. Through the years, other programs were implemented to assist Federal employees with alcohol problems. These programs included the creation of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s), the creation of the FBI’s Drug Deterrence Program (DDP), and the creation in March 1994 of the FBI’s Employee Assistance Unit, which assumed oversight of the Alcohol Program. A fatal traffic accident in August 1994 that involved an agent driving under the influence of alcohol led to the creation of the current alcohol policy, frequently referred to as the “Bright Line Policy.” The principle focus and features of the policy was, and remains to this day, on punishing those involved in any alcohol related misconduct, in addition to punishing any others who could be identified as suspecting, but for whatever reason neglected to act. The policy does not identify or specify any preventive strategies to identify behaviors of at risk employees or those susceptible of transitioning from abuse to the development of a dependency, thus becoming alcoholic. The article goes on to review specific policy provisions and identifies four prevention strategies that should be employed in developing proactive alcohol policies rather than simply relying on punishing offenders. These four strategies are: 1) encourage and reinforce physical and mental fitness; 2) provide lifestyle education; 3) reduce stress; and 4) encourage early detection by peers and managers. References