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Crisis Management

Situations involving alcohol and other drugs can be difficult to manage, especially if you do not have a drug-free workplace policy in place. It is important to proceed with caution and to document any actions you take.

For example, suppose a supervisor comes upon an employee who is disoriented and smells of alcohol. The following are some steps that the supervisor can take:

  1. Escort the employee to a private area to inquire about his or her behavior;
  2. If possible, call in another supervisor or manager who can serve as a reliable witness;
  3. Inform the employee of your concerns and get his or her explanation;
  4. Notify senior management;
  5. Based upon the employee's response, place the employee on suspension until a formal investigation takes place;
  6. and
  7. Arrange for the employee to be escorted home.


Remember, if the employee is in no shape to work, he or she is in no shape to drive.

To investigate a potential drug or alcohol crisis situation, the supervisor should answer the following questions:

  1. What exactly do you see?
  2. Does there appear to be illegal activity, policy violations or very unusual behavior taking place?
  3. Is a group of people involved or a single employee?
  4. Are you the direct supervisor to anyone involved in the incident?
  5. Are reliable witnesses available?
  6. Is any physical danger involved in taking action or not taking action?
  7. Are there existing policies that apply to the situation?
  8. Does the situation require expert consultation from human resources, security or law enforcement?
  9. Have you documented what you see and what you have done in response?

If an employer observes the illegal distribution, possession, sale, transportation or manufacturing of controlled and dangerous substances on his or her property, local law enforcement should be contacted for assistance. These situations usually result in a uniformed officer responding to conduct an investigation, make an arrest (if appropriate) and prepare a report. Due to the limited resources of most local law enforcement agencies, they may not have the ability to conduct lengthy undercover investigations. If such a response is necessary, the employer has the option of contracting the services of a private security investigator.

Enforcement strategies should be well thought out and planned ahead. Consistent, detailed documentation must be maintained in the event that criminal prosecution results from workplace behavior.