Drug Abuse Policy Offers Liability Protection

Article excerpt

A well-defined drug abuse policy can protect Oklahoma firms from potentially crippling liability, said Ron Gappa, owner and president of Gappa and Consultants.

For every 100 employees, 25 abuse drugs in the workplace, said Gappa, experienced in chemical dependecy counseling.

In 1986, the United States lost $60 billion to drugs in the workplace, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. That figure will soar to about $110 billion for 1988, Gappa estimated.

Causes for loss include theft, absenteeism, tardiness and costly civil suits.

To combat drug abuse while preserving worker morale, Gappa recommends a policy that confronts the behavior of the abuser and offers treatment to return them to their job. Such a policy would not include mandatory drug testing which damages worker morale, Gappa noted.

"I do not recommend outright termination," he said. Supervisors who accuse workers of drug abuse set companies up for costly litigation, he said.

In documenting incidents of drug abuse, companies should include the following to legally protect themselves:

- Actual performance facts.

- Behavior facts.

- A measure of productivity which shows how the drug abuser has impacted the organization.

- Evidence of the employee's willingness to change.

Most important, corporations should not include any inflammatory language in documentation, Gappa said.

A effective policy should protect both the rights of the individual and the company, he said.

While alcohol poses the biggest problem for business and industry, Gappa said it is easier to treat than hard drugs. Alcohol abuse if treated early can result in a 50 percent or better success rate, he said.

National figures show that 12 to 15 million people today suffer from alcoholism, Gappa said. …