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10 Steps for Avoiding Legal Problems

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Laws on drug-free workplace programs are complex, but employers can follow basic steps to set a foundation for compliance.

The following best practices are helpful for all organizations that strive for a drug-free workplace:

  1. Consult an employment attorney: The American Bar Association or your state bar association can refer you to a qualified employment attorney. Consult with your attorney whenever you alter your drug-free workplace policy, or if you’re launching a new one.
  2. Set clear penalties: Clearly stipulate the penalties for policy violations. If your policy includes a drug-testing program, state who will be tested, when they will be tested, and what will happen to employees with a violation.
  3. Put it in writing: Every employee should receive and sign a written copy of your drug-free workplace policy. Verbal agreements and unsigned agreements have little legal standing.
  4. Provide training: Ensure that all supervisors are trained on how to detect and respond to workplace drug and alcohol misuse. Maintain attendance logs of all trainings.
  5. Document employee performance: Maintain detailed and objective records on the performance of all employees. A documented performance issue often provides a basis for referring workers to employee assistance programs (EAPs).
  6. Don’t rush to judgment: Do not take disciplinary action against a worker or accuse a worker of a policy violation simply because the employee's behavior seems impaired. Instead, try to clarify the reasons for the employee's impairment. If drug testing is a part of your workplace policy, obtain a verified test result before taking any action.
  7. Protect privacy: Hold discussions with employees about potential violations in private. Have another manager present to serve as a witness. Never accuse or confront an employee in front of his or her coworkers.
  8. Be consistent: No individual employee or group of employees should receive special treatment. Inconsistencies in enforcement could be considered discrimination.
  9. Know your employees: Getting to know your employees can make it easier to identify problems early on.
  10. Involve employees: Workers at all levels of your organization should be involved with developing and implementing your drug-free workplace policy. This will reduce misunderstandings about the reasons for having a drug-free workplace program and help ensure that your policies and procedures are fair to everyone.

Employers who follow these basic steps, and who strive to create programs that are fair, consistent, and supported by all stakeholders, will set a foundation for staying on the right side of the law.

Access the Drug-free Workplace Toolkit to learn how to establish a drug-free workplace program at your organization.

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