Substance abuse can severely threaten a small business.
(article continues below)
In addition to opening your business up to incredible legal risks, companies that ignore drug or alcohol abuse can be subject to criminal penalties, especially if the gross negligence of company management resulted in a physical injury or loss of life.
As a small business owner, you need to make it clear that substance abuse will not be tolerated in your workplace. That means you will need to carefully monitor your workforce and initiate disciplinary action according to your substance abuse policy. In some cases, this will result in the termination of an employee for a drug violation.
Drug-related termination is the result of policy enforcement and efforts to help the employee address their problem. To protect yourself and your business, you will need to implement an iron-clad system for dealing with drug and alcohol abuse. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started.
- Federal laws. The laws governing drugs in the workplace are somewhat murky. However, federal law stipulates that you have a right to test employees for drugs and to fire employees who refuse or fail tests. As a rule, you should create a substance abuse policy that is fair and details drug testing requirements.
- Policies. Your company's drug abuse policies should summarize your commitment a drug-free workplace and carefully describe what is (and isn't) considered to be substance abuse. You can exempt certain classes or types of employees from drug testing, but not on an individual basis.
- Testing. Drug testing most commonly occurs at the time of hiring. However, depending on your business requirements, you may also want to consider random, scheduled or post-accident tests. All tests should be performed by a certified testing facility that has a reputation for reliability and discretion.
- Equity. It's important to apply your drug testing and substance abuse policies in a fair and equitable manner. Selecting individuals for drug testing based on poor performance or unconfirmed suspicions can be legally questionable.
- Confidentiality. Strict confidentiality is a must when dealing with substance abuse in the workplace. Health and testing information must be stored separately from the employee's personnel file and you'll need to take extra measures to ensure compliance with HIPAA and other regulations.
- Remedies. Termination is not typically the first or only option for an employee who tests positive for drug use. Many employers offer rehabilitation as an alternative to termination with stipulations attached for continued employment.