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Substance Abuse in the Workplace

NCJ Number
Deena C. Knight
Date Published
March 2002
5 pages
This article provides practical guidelines for employers in adopting policies and procedures for dealing with employee drug abuse.
Employers should include in the employee handbook a clear policy on employee drug abuse and the employer's procedure for addressing it. Components of a comprehensive employer effort to counter employee drug abuse are a needs assessment, policy development, employee education, supervisor training, employee assistance, and drug testing. Because employee drug testing is a controversial and sensitive issue, it requires careful planning, consistently applied procedures, strict confidentiality, and provisions for appeal. If an employer suspects that a particular employee is abusing drugs or alcohol, the employer should document how the employee's work has been affected. This includes documenting the number of times the suspected employee has arrived to work late, has fallen asleep on the job, has been belligerent, or has slurred words. A program of counseling and discipline should be applied, as would be the case for any employee who has not been performing as expected on the job. Employers should not attempt to diagnose the cause of the employee's job-performance problem. Employer responses to unacceptably poor workplace performance should be designed to improve job performance and retain the employee.