As we all know, the use of illegal drugs has been around for many years. From the early part of the last century, all the way through the mid-’70s, the only illegal drug that was worthy of discussion among shop owners was marijuana. During those times, even cases of marijuana use were few and far between.
It was during the early ‘80s when our nation (and our industry) began to see a number of other drugs emerge, which resulted in many shop owners deciding to implement drug-free workplace programs. I am proud to say that I was one of them, and our objective was quite simple: To protect our employees and our customers from the accidents that can be caused by the use of illegal drugs. Interestingly enough, all the top attorneys in America pretty much agreed that drug-free workplace programs would be a gray area, in that we had to protect the employee’s right to privacy, but we also had to protect our staff and customers. This meant that we needed to be very careful about how we administered the plan. From that point on, questions continued to arise regarding how and when to test, and what we were able to do if someone did test positive.
Now here we are just a few decades later, and not only are there many more types of illegal drugs on the streets, but as you well know, in some states marijuana is legal. Add to that, many users are now abusing prescription drugs with the help of questionable doctors, and the use of illegal drugs is more socially acceptable than ever before.
So the question is, what are you going to do in these changing times to effectively safeguard your employees and your customers? And what about your business?
As I am sure you’re aware, an employee’s drug use can lead to injuries and losses that will drive up your insurance rates, absenteeism, poor performance and even theft. If you’re unsure of what to do, then you’re reading the right article.
Let’s start with some basic understandings. First of all, we need to recognize drug use as an illness long before we consider any laws that may be broken or any damage that may be caused to our businesses. By taking this approach, I feel we can better understand those who use recreational drugs (both legal and illegal, including alcohol), as well as better understand how to deal with those who use drugs.
Secondly, we need to understand that by hiring someone who uses illegal drugs, not only are we running the risks that are associated with employees who use illegal drugs, but we are also knowingly hiring someone with an illness, and who is knowingly breaking the law. This is one of the many reasons you should consider pre-employment testing.
I also realize that laws will vary from state to state, and many states now view drug dependency (including alcohol) as an illness. This means that by employing a drug user, you may not only find yourself involved in a situation where you are unable to terminate the employee, but, in some cases, you may be responsible (in part) for their rehabilitation.
As a shop owner, you need to conclude what type of people you are looking to hire, and the kind of culture you are looking to create in your shop. I sense you would agree that abstinence from non-prescription drugs is not only a testimony to someone’s self-discipline, but it is a reflection of their values as well.
Lastly, I would recommend speaking with an employment law attorney regarding the discrimination considerations when it comes to applicants who use legal, recreational drugs such as alcohol, and in some states, marijuana. You should also discuss a pre-employment drug testing program with them, as well as an ongoing drug-free workplace program that you can implement.
In closing, by implementing a drug-free workplace program in your shop, you will not only be better safeguarding your employees and customers, but also you will be sending a very powerful message to your community that you are principle-centered, and that you really do care about people. Drug use may very well become more common than less common, so I would encourage you to do what your competitors aren’t doing, and take the next steps to solidify your shop’s drug-free culture.