What to Do When You Suspect an Employee of Off-the-Clock Drug Use

As an employer, you may recognize some telltale signs that could indicate an employee’s off-the-clock drug use, including a pattern of increased irritability, slurred speech, improper appearance, shakiness, low productivity, poor performance, frequent sick days or lateness, and uncooperative or argumentative behavior. But because it is such a delicate, personal issue, it can be hard to move forward when you suspect an employee of drug use outside of the workplace.

Still, it’s important that you take certain steps when you feel your employee’s outside drug use is threatening their health or affecting their job performance, since ignoring the problem could lead to further problems. In addition to the physical, emotional, and mental dangers of drug use, an addicted employee can cost your company time, money, and clients or customers — plus, depending on the severity of their drug use and its effects on their abilities, it could lead to workplace injuries. Don’t further complicate the situation or jeopardize your company by ignoring your suspicions.

Are you worried about off-the-clock drug use among your employees? It’s different than addressing on-the-clock drug use, but just as important. Here are some tips for approaching the topic of drug use with your employees.

Handling Suspected Employee Drug Use

Record Your Observations

If you begin to notice a pattern of behaviors that could indicate off-the-clock employee drug use, it’s time to begin recording your observations. Make a note when employees are absent, late, unproductive, or fails to meet a deadline. Be specific and objective in these attendance and performance records — and, of course, keep them completely confidential. They’ll serve as a good reference point when you broach the subject of drug use with the employee in question.

Discuss the Matter in Private

Kansas City North | What to Do When You Suspect an Employee of Off-the-Clock Drug Use

Next, you need to pull your employee aside to have a private conversation about their poor job performance, referring to your specific notes as needed. Do not mention that you suspect them of drug use in this meeting, as accusations of drug use can lead to legal woes for your company, even if you have a wealth of evidence to support your claim. Only address your performance concerns in this meeting, and never sound accusatory. It’s helpful to have another manager or supervisor in the room to witness and document the entire process, including the next two steps:

Hear the Employee Out

There are a variety of mental and physical health problems that could mimic the same symptoms as drug use, so it is key to listen to your employee after you voice your concerns to them. If your employee is struggling with drug use, they may come clean about this issue with you, and you can move forward as outlined below. If your employee offers another feasible explanation for their ailing performance, you can move on to creating a plan that will improve their work. If your employee doesn’t offer a reason for their slipping work, do not bring up drug use — just move forward.

Create a Plan of Action

After you have given your employee a chance to respond to your concerns, it’s time to agree on the path forward.

If your employee admits to having problems with drug use, then you pursue further action as outlined in your drug-free workplace policy. Depending on the severity of their drug use or their role in your company, you may need to help them receive treatment for drug use or even terminate their employment if you are in an industry where their drug use has put others at risk, like the Department of Transportation. To learn more about how to proceed when you have confirmation of your employee’s on- or off-the-clock drug use, read here.

No matter the reasons your employee gives for their failing performance — whether they admit to drug use or not — you should set out a plan to improve their job performance in an allotted time and specify direct consequences if they fail to do so. Make your expectations clear and set up a follow-up meeting at which you’ll evaluate their progress.

Following Up

When you suspect an employee of drug use, it’s key to follow up with them. Continue to track their performance and see if they have met the expectations you set forth in your discussion. If they haven’t, you may have sufficient grounds to terminate their employment. If you confirmed an employee’s drug use and they have pursued treatment as a condition of their continued employment, keep up with their recovery and support them so that they don’t relapse.

Get Employee Drug Testing

If you suspect employees of drug use, confidential, reliable workplace drug testing by Test Smartly Labs could be the answer to your problems. Our Kansas City North location offers workplace drug testing, including pre-employment screeningsrandom drug testingpost-workplace accident drug testing, and reasonable suspicion drug screening.

In addition to our drug testing services, Test Smartly Labs of Kansas City North can also help you discourage drug use at your company by establishing a strong drug-free workplace policy. We’ll guide you through every step of the process, from a company needs evaluation to policy creation and review and policy and program implementation to supervisor and employee training. When it comes to fighting employee drug use with drug testing or a drug-free employee policy, ARCpoint is on your side — call us today at (816) 399-4597.

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