What is “Reasonable Suspicion” and how does it affect employers?
Recently, while having lunch out at a nearby restaurant, we noticed that many of the other people who were also enjoying their meals were also consuming alcohol. The types of drinks ranged from draught beer to mixed drinks, to frozen drinks.
Our office is near a historic district, rich with engaging cultural and entertainment opportunities; it’s clear that many of the lunch-goers were tourists visiting the area on vacation. At the same time, another significant portion of the crowd were employees of nearby businesses. Casual observation suggested that these people were from a range of business types including office workers, construction professionals, and service people.
This experience caused us to reflect how many of these people might be returning to work after consuming alcohol at lunch.
Being impaired at work is a severe problem. It puts the employee at risk, it places co-workers and the public in jeopardy of danger, and it introduces risk and liability for the company. Employees who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs while at work is why it is essential for any organization to make sure the company’s managers receive training in what is known as “Reasonable Suspicion.”
“Reasonable Suspicion,” in a legal sense, has many definitions. For our purposes, we are referring to a situation where an employer, manager, supervisor, or co-worker has a strong, justified suspicion that an employee is working under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Reasonable suspicion means that an employer has a substantiated reason, based only on facts and logic (not their feelings about an employee), to suspect that an employee is functioning while being affected by alcohol or drugs.
It is critical to understand that reasonable suspicion is not a “guess” or a “gut feeling” or a reaction to a workplace rumor. Instead, the employer, manager, or supervisor must carefully examine the situation and use only the facts when determining if reasonable suspicion is applicable.
Enacting reasonable suspicion of alcohol or drug use is not a simple procedure. Somone may have had direct observation of an employee using drugs or alcohol at work, or they are exhibiting behaviors of being impaired. These behaviors could include slurred speech, erratic behavior, degradation in work performance, or other types of abnormal conduct.
Even if an employer has a drug-free workplace policy, reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing can present challenges, including legal and regulatory requirements.
We strongly recommend that all employers, regardless of the presence of a drug-free workplace policy, have their management and supervisors professionally trained in reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing. With the training and implementation, the business will have a safer workplace, higher morale, more productivity, and reduced risk of liability. Moreover, for regulated companies, training is an essential step towards compliance.
Learn more about National Drug Screening’s training programs here: https://www.nationaldrugscreening.com/trainings.php