If you, as an employer or supervisor, suspect an employee is abusing alcohol or drugs, your best option is to start gathering evidence. Many times, you won’t have the authority to mandate drug or alcohol testing unless the employee is intoxicated while at work. Start documenting any and all performance issues, including dates and times.

As an employer, you do however have the authority to do voluntary testing. For example, when an employee offers to take a test after denying intoxication. If your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), meet with a counselor before approaching an employee. If your company doesn’t have EAP, here are some step you can take:

  • Schedule a 1-on-1: Notify the employee of the time and place to discuss the employee’s performance. Make to have the meeting in a private setting to help avoid embarrassment.
  • Tread Softly: Do not directly address the alcohol or substance abuse directly unless the employee has been obviously impaired at work or has been rumored to do so. Instead, stick with the employee’s job performance issues.
  • Plan on Denial: Denial is common when someone is confronted with alcohol and/or substance abuse. If your employee denies abusing drugs or alcohol and refuses help, continue to document the employee’s job performance should disciplinary action be necessary for the future.
  • Consider an Intervention: If your employee has been intoxicated or under the influence at work, you might consider putting together an intervention. Colleagues and peers, not supervisors, can confront the employer and encourage seeking professional help. It’s important to keep supervisors out of the intervention and let a trained professional lead a work-based intervention.
  • Don’t Enable: Similar to how friends and family show some tough love to the person abusing alcohol or drugs, employers and supervisors should do the same. Avoid lending money, covering for the employee, making excuses for the employee, or handing their work to someone else. Do not attempt to counsel the employee on your own; you could do more harm than good.
  • Implement Policies: As an employer, you can address substance abuse by implementing new drug and alcohol policies. By putting the new rules into writing, you can explain what you will and won’t tolerate in the workplace. For example, your new policy could include random drug and alcohol testing, which the employees will need to agree to in writing to maintain employment.
  • Offer Support: Offering all employees comprehensive health care plans that cover all aspects of treatment for substance abuse disorders is a great start if your company can afford it. If not, there is still support available for low to no cost for your employees. A Recovery coach can help your employees get the help they need without incurring massive overhead costs for your organization.

Anytime you, as a supervisor or employer, suspect an employee is abusing drugs or alcohol, document everything. Performance issues, absences, conflict with coworkers and incidents should all be documented.

Your overall goal as a supervisor or employer should be to help the addicted employee the help they need to be as healthy and as productive as they can be.

Facts About Alcohol in the Workplace

  • Employees with alcohol problems are 2.7 times more likely to have injury-related absences than employees without a drinking problem.
  • 35 percent of patients suffering from an occupational injury are at-risk drinkers according to nationwide emergency room study.
  • 16 percent of emergency room patients injured at work tested positive for alcohol on a breathalyzer.
  • 11 percent of workplace fatalities had been drinking at the time of the incident.
  • 24 percent of employees report having drank at least once while on the job in the past year, according to a federal survey.
  • 20 percent of employees and managers report that a coworker’s drinking jeopardized their productivity and/or safety, regardless of whether the employee is drinking on- or off-the-job.


Facts About Drugs in the Workplace

  • 70 percent of the 14.8 million illegal drug users in the United States are gainfully employed.
  • Marijuana is the most commonly used and abused drug in the workplace by employees, followed by cocaine and prescription drugs.
  • Employees reporting to have three or more jobs in the past five years are twice as likely to be active or past abusers of drugs and alcohol.