5 Steps to Address Vodka in an Employee’s Water Bottle

A water bottle on an employee’s desk or a cup of coffee seems very, very reasonable.  Yet, what happens when there is more than coffee or water in those containers? 

The answer depends on your policies, state law, and what you already know about this employee.  Here are 5 steps to review when facing a situation of potential substance abuse on the job.   

5 Steps to Review

Step 1

Address the impact the substance abuse has on the employee’s behavior through your handbook policy, cultural norms and job descriptions. 

Step 2

Ensure you have a clearly written job description with physical abilities that name what the expected behavior is.   

Step 3

Review your handbook policy to determine what your Drug and Alcohol policy states and ensure you are adhering to it.  The following are key items typically included in a drug and alcohol policy: 

  • Prohibit the use and possession of illegal drugs and/or alcohol in the workplace.
  • Prohibit employees from working while under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol.
  • Outline the substance abuse/drug testing programs.
  • Address an employer’s right to immediately test an employee with reasonable suspicion that they may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • State the consequences to employees who do not follow these policies.

Step 4

Investigate the situation.  If your policy provides the support to conduct reasonable suspicion testing and you have staff onsite trained to complete this, complete that assessment. 

Step 5

Review what you already know about this employee.  Do they have a noted disability or a perceived disability under the American with Disabilities Act?  Have accommodations been made in compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act?  This will determine if you must enter into an interactive process to provide reasonable accommodation.  The key here is that you have already addressed the IMPACT the substance abuse has on the organization, specifically relating to safety concerns. 

Final Thoughts

In any case, a good offense is the best defense for any employment law situation.  Therefore, having strong policies and ensuring your managers are trained to identify key HR red flags will lead to increased employee productivity and engaged staff.

If you have more questions than answers after reading this blog, please check out our complimentary trainings HERE.  We discuss both organizational culture and compliance.  If you like what you find, we would love to continue the conversation.