Employee absenteeism, work-related injuries and lost productivity represent some of the effects of employee drug use in the workplace. Employers in the United States lose up to an estimated $53.4 billion in productivity due to prescription drug misuse by workers, and nearly 2% of workers are believed to be dependent upon marijuana. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14.6% of workers surveyed in Colorado, a state where recreational use of marijuana is legal, admitted to using the substance within 30 days of responding to the survey.
Employers need to understand the legal issues related to workplace injuries involving drug use and how to create and enforce a company-wide policy pertaining to drugs in the workplace.
Challenges of enforcing a drug-free policy in the workplace
Employers cannot make assumptions about the effects of drug use on the ability of workers to perform the duties associated with their jobs. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that an employer have a reasonable belief supported by objective evidence before initiating inquiries about an employee’s use of drugs.
The ADA prohibits employers from enforcing a blanket policy prohibiting the use of prescribed medications. A workplace drug policy can ask employees to disclose the use of prescribed medications that could affect their ability to perform their jobs. The ADA dictates that if an employee discloses their use of prescribed medications, the employer is required to discuss the matter with the employee and make reasonable accomodations as necessary to allow the worker to remain employed.
Some states, such as California, raise personal privacy concerns as the basis for placing limitations on an employer’s right to conduct drug testing of employees. Federal law, particularly the ADA, presents a challenge to employer efforts to create a completely drug-free workplace.
Employers need a clear, written drug policy
Having a written drug policy in place avoids conflicts and potential litigation with employees claiming they were unaware that their use of drugs, medical marijuana, or other prescribed medications violated company policy. A written policy detailing the types of drugs allowed and the types of drugs prohibited by the employer, and the consequences associated with a violation of the policy, should be given and explained to all new employees.
The policy should include details about the company’s drug-testing program, including the circumstances under which an employee could be asked to submit to testing. Engaging the services of an experienced personal injury attorney to prepare a policy that complies with state and federal laws is essential to avoid disputes and potential litigation.
In the event of an accident
After a work-related accident resulting in an employee being injured, an employer will likely undertake an investigation as to the circumstances that caused the accident. While it may be tempting to request the workers involved take a drug test, employers must proceed with caution to avoid violating state or federal law.
For example, regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration pertaining to drug testing following job-related accidents could be in conflict with ADA rules if the employee is taking prescribed medications. Consulting a personal injury attorney about your company’s drug policy could help clarify what to do in the event of an accident, and how to ascertain whether drugs played a role.
Getting legal advice about drugs in the workplace
Employers must be mindful of the rights of their employees when implementing a workplace drug policy while also protecting themselves against claims for injuries caused by accidents involving workers who are under the influence of drugs. The advice and guidance of an experienced personal injury lawyer helps ensure an enforceable drug policy that complies with laws and regulations.
Guest Author’s Bio:
Steve has been writing legal-centric articles for several years now. He started working with the personal injury attorney law firm Herrig & Vogt in 2019 as the Content Marketing Manager, which has allowed him to expand on his writing in personal injury, family law, and much more. Steve strives to offer the public advice on various laws covering a variety of practices.