Why should you, as a business owner, be concerned about employing people who abuse narcotics or alcohol? After all, what employees do on their own time is their business, right?


First, if your employees are abusing substances during work hours, they will adversely affect your entire operation – everything from safety to production to customer relations.

What many business owners and managers don’t realize, though, is that employees who never abuse drugs or alcohol while working can create tremendous costs and problems for their employers when they are away from the workplace.

Substance abusers are absent or late for work more often than non-abusers, according to government statistics. Substance abusers generate higher average medical costs due to drug- and alcohol-related illnesses. Substance abusers are more likely to be injured in accidents (on and off the job) than non-abusers. Substance abusers are involved in family and domestic problems more often than non-abusers. And substance abusers typically need extra cash to support their habits.

Employees who steal from their employers often are motivated by family problems, which can be exacerbated by substance abuse. I have found that there is almost always a direct correlation between the number of personnel abusing drugs or alcohol (on or off the job) and the extent of a company’s employee-theft problem.

So what can you do? Simply try to be aware of what is happening in the lives of your employees. Watch for changes in attendance patterns, listen when employees want to talk about family problems, and learn to recognize the symptoms of substance abuse.

Include a chemical drug-screening program (conducted by a forensic lab) as part of your pre-employment screening process. It’s also a good idea to require a chemical test immediately following any on-the-job accident as a matter of company policy. (Remember, however, that any such policy should be approved by a knowledgeable attorney prior to implementation to ensure compliance with EEPC guidelines.)

Most of all, avoid complacency. Don’t just accept a problem, do something about it. Working to encourage a safer, more secure work place helps your customers, your employees and your bottom line.

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