Friday, October 13, 2006

Drugs in the workplace

At my place of employment we just completed a routine round of random drug and alcohol testing.

Why? Well, I don’t want to get into any kind of debate on legalizing marijuana (Christina) or other substances. But at this refinery-type plant many jobs are deemed “safety critical.” That means that errors in judgment or performance can cause injuries or death. For those jobs (at least) we have both a moral and a legal obligation to take steps to prevent impaired employees from endangering themselves and others.

One generally accepted way of “controlling” this risk is a program of random drug testing.

But one of the risks you suffer WITH such a program is that you might actually catch someone. We did, yesterday.

He told us before he was tested that he knew he would fail. He was devastated. His biggest concern? He knew that he’d have to tell his wife.

The marriage was already troubled. He feared this might be too much of a blow for it to survive.

I spent some time with him this morning going over his options. He will not lose his job, or even any of his base pay, if he really wants to keep working here. It’s his choice.

Assuming he DOES want to keep his job, we’ll place him on medical leave and require that he report to our designated independent Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) on Monday. She will create a program for him. Those details will be private between her and her patient. She will report to me ONLY the fact of his compliance (or not) with her program, and let me know when he is ready to report back for work.

Noncompliance = no job.

As a condition of employment he must then agree that any subsequent positive test will result in his termination.

The key to all of this, as I stressed today, is that it’s all his choice.

He never gave a prior thought to the impact his earlier choice (to abuse the drug) might have on not just him, but also his family and those who work with him. He has lost a level of trust that took years to create. It’s going to be a tough job to recreate that trust. It can be done, though.

I hope he beats the odds and makes it. I really do.

File this under “The Joys of a Career in Human Resources.”


Karyn Lyndon said...

I doubt most companies are as positive in handling this kind of situation...I hope this guy considers himself lucky...

CaliMarie said...

This was a very kind decision, John. And I admire the sympathy.

It almost makes me feel guilty of some decisions I made in the past...when in the same situation.

But I say almost because I was dealing with people who were directly dealing with the lives of others.

If they were using drugs...someone could accidentally receive the wrong medication or the wrong dosage and die.

It was no joke...their familiies or domestic situatons couldn't be taken into consideration. They just had to be terminated. And that was their damn choice. That's just something I had to come to terms with.

And you wouldn't believe how many people knew they could possibly be subjected to a drug test, but still were smoking pot (amongst other things) just about everyday.

It would scare you to death to find out what some doctors and nurses have been on while taking care of patients.

So...depending on the job...sympathy can be looked upon as a positive thing or a very negative thing.

I'll just say I haven't lost any sleep over anyone that's been fired in the past.

I think yours was a good call. Wishing "employee" the best.

Christina said...

No debate.

I hope he makes it.

Miss Cellania said...

In the radio business, you don't see much drug testing because management is afraid to lose half the staff. Happened once, though, for a new insurance plan, at the insurance company's behest. My husband (at the time) had opted out for us because of expense already, but he would have never passed the test. Half the people who signed up for the insurance suddenly decided they didn't need it.

Now I wish radio stations did do drug testing; since I need a job, it would be nice to cut down on the competition.

Monica said...

I think he's lucky; he has his family, his free choice and from how you described it, a great place to work that is trying to help him. I found THAT very impressive.

Humanity can really be nice at times...thanks for sharing this with us.

kim23 said...

Drugs in the workplace are a serious and major concern for all organizations nowadays. I strongly believe that every employer should conduct a pre-employment and random dot drug testing in order to avoid workplace accidents, injuries, absenteeism and other problems. thanks for this sharing!

Betty Rose said...

That must've been an overwhelming find. To think that one of your employees failed a drug test must've devastated you. Although I commend you for turning the other cheek in that kind of situation. I just hope he realizes how lucky he is to have you as a superior. Thanks for sharing that, John! Kudos and all the best to you!

Betty Rose @ Phenix Investigations