Small business ownership is hard enough.
The last thing you need is a workforce that doesn't take the issue of drug and alcohol abuse as seriously as you do. There are both practical and legal reasons for maintaining a drug and alcohol free workplace – and that means you need to create an alcohol and drug free workplace policy that has real teeth in the courtroom and on the shop floor.
A drug and alcohol policy needs to include a lot more than a statement that your business won't tolerate abuse. If you've done it properly, your policy will be included in the Employee Handbook and posted throughout your workplace. In addition to a no-tolerance statement, effective alcohol and drug free policies answer several important questions.
- Who is covered? Carefully consider who will be covered by drug and alcohol policy before you codify a policy in written form. Although it might seem logical to apply your policy to your entire workforce, if the policy calls for mandatory drug testing you could be facing a hefty lab bill. You can't discriminate at the individual level, but you can discriminate by classes of workers and job functions.
- What are prohibited behaviors? Your policy should clearly articulate any and all prohibited behaviors. Drug or alcohol use in the workplace is a no-brainer, but you'll need to consider other possible scenarios. For example, can a sales person buy a client a drink at lunch?
- Are prior drug-related convictions acceptable? For many companies, prior drug convictions are an important hiring consideration. If you choose to exclude workers with prior drug convictions from your workplace, specify the relevant time period, e.g. the previous five years.
- Will there be drug testing? Employers are legally permitted to conduct drug testing as long as it is applied in a fair and equitable manner. Your policy should describe testing requirements and the lab you will use for analysis.
- What are the consequences of violations? Consequences can range from immediate dismissal to probation to treatment programs. Unless you are a zero tolerance workplace, your policy will likely describe a process of treatment and discipline leading up to termination.
- What about confidentiality? An employee's alcohol and drug status is protected under HIPAA regulations and must be kept completely confidential. Your policy needs to describe confidentiality mechanisms and any information about the individual's substance abuse status needs to be filed in a separate location from his personnel file.