Wednesday, October 19, 2005

An HR tale

Sometimes you get lucky.

One of our department managers came to my office today with a problem. He’d been told (grapevine stuff) that one of the contract employees who works in his department was using and selling drugs.

Not selling on our plant site, but a dealer. Presumably at home, or at least in town.

Further, the grapevine indicated that this man had attended a party on Monday night, and had called in sick yesterday but was at work today.

Since the person (“Mr. X”) was not our employee, it would be up to the contract firm to handle the situation through their substance abuse policy. That policy calls for random testing of 2-3 employees per month.

We agreed after some discussion that the best course of action would be to call the contract firm’s home office and “suggest” that this might be a good time to include Mr. X in a random drug test.

Hey, before you get on my case about being a hypocrite (since on yesterday's post I claimed Libertarian tendencies, and that if there's no victim there's no crime) you've got to remember that this guy works at a refinery-type plant. His job is such that inattention to detail or impairment could cause very serious injuries or death, and LOTS of property damage.

There were additional concerns expressed about Mr. X learning of his random selection early enough to attempt to leave the site before he was asked to take the test. Another was that he might even attempt to mask the test results through one of the many questionable methods described and sold through the internet. Such was the rumor of his possible habits.

Unfortunately I can’t go into more detail here since this is a public blog read by some locally who know my plant and its people.

Our conclusion was to try to have him tested through the contract firm’s program. If the test came back as a confirmed positive, the problem would be solved since their policies call for referral to treatment at the employee’s expense (which most can’t afford, especially since it usually involves considerable time off without pay) or you’re out. If it came back negative, either the rumors of his usage were false or he’d been successful in masking the chemicals in his system.

A third possibility was that the test would be “inconclusive,” which usually means that foreign substances were present that interfered with the test (masking agents). We’d discuss how to proceed in that case after we knew the results.

So, the call was made to the home office, and a routine request for two specific contract employees to be “randomly” tested came back to the supervisor. He dutifully gathered up the two and drove them into town to the testing lab to produce their sample.

One of them did so. But Mr. X thought about it briefly, and then told the supervisor he didn’t think he’d take the test, since he hadn’t studied for it. He’d just quit, thank you very much.

So, problem solved. Like I said, sometimes you get lucky.

Oh, and I heard that the local police might get an anonymous tip about a certain Mr. X who was rumored to be dealing drugs in town. The ubiquitous grapevine at work again.


Karyn Lyndon said...

The ol' pop quiz will get you every time.

Christina said...

I assume we're talking about smoking pot? I tend to feel that what someone does on his own time away from work is his own business, unless it directly affects his work. If this employee has shown a pattern of calling in "sick" under questionable circumstances I would say something is affecting his work. If the employee had a good attendance and good safety record and did a good job, I wouldn't set up a "random" test based on a rumor. I don't think that something you smoked on a Friday night, 3 or 4 weeks ago should automatically get you fired if you always show up to work on time, unimpaired, and do a good job. I'm not saying what was done to this employee was wrong, just expressing my general opinion!