Employers should have a written policy, as part of their employee handbook and manual, prohibiting the illegal use of drugs and the use of alcohol in the workplace. While these are often called “Substance Abuse Policies,” because addiction could be protected under the disability discrimination laws, it is prudent to call these policies “Drug Free Workplace Policies” – because that is the goal. An employee cannot be terminated because he or she is an alcoholic or they have an addiction, since those could be disabilities. However, that does not permit employees to come to work drunk, stoned, or otherwise under the influence of some substance that limits the employee’s cognitive abilities. Thus, the policy sets out permitted and prohibited behavior – and an employee who comes to work under the influencecan then be terminated for violating the policy.
Some of the factors the policy should cover include setting out the type of environment the company is seeking to create, and the activities prohibited by the policy that are counter to that environment (such as using, selling, manufacturing, etc., drugs and drug paraphernalia, or coming to work under the influence). It should identify the penalties for violating the policy, such as providing that employees’ employment may be terminated for the illegal use of drugs, or the use of alcohol, in the workplace, or otherwise coming to work or performing company business with their judgement or cognitive functions impaired.
It should carve out an exception for prescription medications being used according to a physician’s prescription, but require reporting if the doctor advised to limit any activities that are usual functions of the employee’s job. If the employer performs drug tests, the policy should specify when such testing might be conducted, presuming such is permitted under your state’s laws. Where permitted by law, employers usually may conduct drug tests as part of the job application process, as a continuing condition of employment (or promotion), where there is reasonable suspicion that the employee is violating the Drug Free Workplace Policy, or when there has been an on-the-job accident or injury.
If alcohol is permitted at workplace events, these situations should be addressed and a “drink responsibly” message should be included. It might also be wise to indicate how an employee can safely secure a ride home from such an event if necessary should he or she have enjoyed a bit too much.