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How Employers Should Handle an Employee Who is Intoxicated While On the Job

When someone is addicted to drugs, the addiction doesn’t wait. They need the fix no matter what time of day it is, or where they are when the craving strikes. This unfortunately also applies to the workplace, and with more than 70 percent of the country’s nearly 15 million Americans who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, it is a safe bet to make that some of those people are going to be drunk or high while at work.

If you’re an employer who isn’t sure whether or not one of your employees may have an alcohol or drug problem, here are a few signs to look for to determine whether or not the employee may be intoxicated while on the job:

● They’re not dependable.

Those who abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to be late to work or not show up at all, and often these absences will come with no advanced notice. You might also notice that the employee tends to call out on the days before or after a weekend, or immediately following payday.

● They may suffer from behavioral problems.

An employee who abuses drugs may be argumentative, introverted, or particularly cranky in the mornings following a weekend or holiday. They may also have obvious physical signs of abuse, like the smell of alcohol on their breath or clothes, bloodshot eyes, an obnoxious volume of voice, avoiding meetings, or falling asleep at their desk.

● Their performance suffers.

Employees struggling with substance abuse may either turn in lackluster assignments or they may miss their deadlines entirely.

If you notice one of your employees exhibiting any of the above-mentioned behaviors, and you suspect that he or she may be abusing drugs or alcohol, here are some ways that you can intervene and approach the issue:

● Review the behavior you have noticed with an Employee Assistance Program counselor. Make sure that your data is as detailed as possible, complete with dates and times.

● Schedule a meeting with the employee. Make sure the meeting is in a private place so as to both encourage the employee to attend and to maintain a respectful level of privacy.

● Focus on the employee’s poor performance, rather than questioning him or her outright on the possibility of having a substance abuse problem. You can refer the employee to EAP and explain how potential consequences of not rectifying the problem include discipline and/or termination.

● Prepare for the employee to deny having a problem. If the employee declines to meet with EAP, then simply continue to document his or her behavior as you were and carry out the disciplining and/or termination if the employee’s behavior does not improve.

● From here, you might want to consider enlisting a trained professional to organize a formal intervention for the employee. This would involve bringing in fellow colleagues and anyone important to the employee to advise him or her that she should seek professional counseling in order to conquer their addiction.

● Be sure to provide support for the employee through the use of comprehensive health benefits that will help the employee get the help they need, including treatment, counseling, and aftercare.