Don't HR Alone #43 - Drugs, Medicare, and Job References

Suspected Drug and Alcohol Use

Question: What is the best way to confront an employee who seems to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol? This employee had bloodshot eyes, smelled of alcohol, and was “not herself.” Answer: If you suspect an employee has a drug or alcohol problem that may be affecting job performance, it’s a best practice for the employee’s direct supervisor, management representative, or human resources department to investigate and document the specific, objective, observable behaviors. When doing so, consider the following:

  • Could the employee have a disability or some other medical issues that are causing her to have a perceived smell of alcohol?

  • Do observations/reports about this employee come from a credible source, such as a trusted member of the management team? Are the symptoms and observations reasonable cause to suspect alcohol or drug abuse?

“Reasonable” is not merely rumored or speculation but a suspicion based on specific, objective facts and rational inferences from observing an employee’s behavior. Specific objective facts and rational inferences drawn from those facts must justify reasonable suspicion. This may include alcohol on the breath, lapses in performance, inability to appropriately respond to questions, and physical symptoms of alcohol or drug influence. Examples of drug and/or alcohol abuse include but are not limited to the following signs:

  • Odor of alcohol

  • Odor of marijuana