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9 Easy Steps for Avoiding Legal Problems

Clearly, an employer needs to consider many different federal, state, and local laws when designing and implementing a drug free workplace program.  The sheer number and complexity of relevant statues can sometimes make it seem as though implementing a program is more trouble than it is worth.
However, employers can take several simple and practical steps to avoid legal problems:
  • Consult with a lawyer whenever you introduce a new drug free workplace policy or make alterations to an existing policy.  The American Bar Association and most state bar associations offer free legal referral services that can help you locate a qualified employment lawyer in your area.
  • Make sure that your drug free workplace policy clearly stipulates what the penalties for policy violations will be.  If your policy includes a drug testing program, spell out exactly who will be tested, when they will be tested, and what will happen to employees who test positive.
  • Make sure that every one of your employees receives and signs a written copy of your drug free workplace policy.  Verbal agreements and unsigned agreements have little legal standing.
  • Make sure that you, and all of your supervisors, receive proper training in how to detect and respond to workplace drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Maintain detailed and objective records documenting the performance problems of all your employees.  Such records often provide a basis for referring workers to employee assistance programs.
  • Never take disciplinary action against a worker or accuse a worker of a policy violation simply because that employee is acting impaired.  Instead, try to clarify the reasons for the employee's impairment.  If drug testing is a part of your workplace policy, obtain a confirmatory test result before taking any action.
  • Never accuse or confront an employee or a particular group of employees for special treatment, whether it is rehabilitation or punishment.  Any inconsistencies in the enforcement of your policy may lead to charges of discrimination.
  • Try to get to know your employees as much as possible.  This may help you more quickly identify workers who are in trouble or are developing substance abuse problems.
  • Most importantly, try to involve workers at all levels of your organization in developing and implementing your drug free workplace policy.  This will reduce misunderstandings about any reasons for having a drug free workplace program and help ensure that your policies and procedures are fair to everyone.

9 Easy Steps for Avoiding Legal Problems - Compliance & Safety Management

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