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Supervisors certified to detect drug, alcohol use

November 18, 2010

Employee drug use presents a company with measurable costs—worker’s compensation and disability/pension payments—that are great.  

But they are dwarfed by other, hidden costs: damaged equipment, lost parts and theft, poor customer relations that damage a company’s public image, supervisory and management time diverted by friction among the workforce and deteriorated staff morale, and expenses from turnover.


A public service announcement warns that "If somebody who works for you has a drug problem, then you have a drug problem." If that is true, and with statistics indicating 75 percent of illegal drug users hold full- or part-time jobs, then lots of employers have a problem. 

"People’s lives degrade" with drug use, said Arthur Hirsch at a Dec. 7 CATA management education seminar. "But the last thing they let degrade is their job, because they need the money to continue their habit."


The union contracts with both the Auto Mechanics Local 701 and the Teamsters Local 731 stipulate that supervisors and managers cannot act against a union employee suspected of drug or alcohol abuse unless the superior is trained by a certified agency to detect and identify the same.  

To satisfy that training, Hirsch and David Mayor, physicians who operate Occupational Health Consultants, LLC; spoke at the seminar with Thomas Posey, an attorney with Franczek Sullivan, the CATA’s employment relations counsel.


Managers from about 30 area dealerships attended the training, which would be repeated in about six months for other managers. The one-time certification does not expire. 

Mayor emphasized the importance of managers recording any irregular behaviors among their subordinates. "If something’s not right with them, start documenting. If you learn later that their cat died, fine, then throw the paper away. But at least you started documenting," he said.


A change in appearance following lunch or breaks, mood swings, failure to meet deadlines and weariness are among physical signals of drug or alcohol abuse, said Mayor. He said one company kept a calendar of days when a particular worker was "snippy," and it always occurred after a day off. 

"That person eventually tested positive for drugs," Mayor said.


Unionized employees, said Posey, can’t be subjected to random testing for drugs or alcohol; a "reasonable suspicion" must exist. However, a Local 701 technician can automatically be tested if he is involved in an incident that involves more than $500 in property damage. For Local 731 workers, the threshold is $1,000 damage.