This paper will examine the concept of ‘due diligence’ as it applies to the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace; will review the impact of drugs and alcohol at work, and look at those policies and procedures required to ensure that organizations meet due diligence requirements. Alcoholism and drug addiction are medically recognized conditions warranting treatment. It is incumbent on organizations to develop policies that address the impact of drugs and alcohol. Organizations without well thought-out policies place themselves at risk of costly litigation and punitive damages. The use of drug and alcohol testing is reviewed. Organizations are challenged to develop policies that address the impact of drugs and alcohol in the workplace. Education and awareness training for all employees is seen as critical for changing the cultural norms of any organization.
The pollution of vast tracts of pristine coastline, the death and serious injury of passengers and employees on public transportation -- in these and many other ways, the impact of drinking and drugs in the workplace is well known and highly publicized by the media. Closer to everyday experience may be a back injury in a fall from a scaffold, an accident in the company truck resulting in impaired driving charges, or any number of accidents both on and off the job -- all the results of alcohol and drug abuse.
Organizations, governments, unions and mental health professionals are working together to educate employees and the public about the problem of drinking and drugs in the workplace. Prevention, early identification, motivation to change, and provision for treatment are key elements in the efforts to address these issues. In looking at the potential risk from employees with drug and alcohol problems, it is essential that organizations consider all factors required to meet ‘due diligence’ obligations.
This paper will examine the concept of ‘due diligence’ as it applies to the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace; review the impact of drugs and alcohol at work; and look at policies and procedures which meet due diligence requirements.
A useful definition of ‘due diligence’ for the purposes of this discussion can be derived from the commonly held view of corporate liability. It is helpful to ask, ‘what would the public expect of this organization?’ when considering what an appropriate response by the employer would be if an employee reports to work obviously under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Another question to ask is, ‘what steps should an organization be prepared to take to ensure that no employee works while unfit?’ Employers must ensure that everything ‘reasonable’ has been done to protect the safety of the employee, his / her colleagues, the physical plant, the environment and public safety.
There needs to be a balance between the rights of individual employees and the expectation of employers that their employees present themselves as fit and able to work. Employees have the responsibility to report to work fit and to remain tit for work and capable of undertaking their assigned duties.