As auto dealers and many other business owners have discovered, the opioid crisis is having a significant impact on the American workforce.
For a variety of reasons, opioid use and abuse has become a difficult challenge for society including employers. The negative impacts of drug use in the workplace include impacts on productivity, safety, insurance costs, theft, and employee morale.
Employers have been forced to address the crisis in many ways. Some dealers and dealer groups have taken steps to update their due diligence through employee education, supervisory training, and adopting appropriate drug-testing procedures.
In addition, a growing number of employers have made decisions to become part of the solution by supporting last-chance agreements and rehabilitation programs for opioid-dependent workers and family members.
Policies that promote a drug-free workplace can also provide support for those already addicted. Your program can include the adoption of a written drug-free workplace policy, detailed and comprehensive supervisor training, an employee education and awareness program, a comprehensive employee assistance program (EAP), and a proactive drug-testing policy.
Given the potentially hazardous environment of a dealership — especially for anyone working in the service department — an impaired employee can risk the safety of themselves, fellow colleagues, and customers.
As the crisis has touched many sectors of society, employers have made the choice to shift away from zero-tolerance drug policies they have adopted in the past. More recent trends are to provide proactive measures to help those workers dealing with addiction.
If facing this problem with a workforce, consider the following ways to address the issue of drug addiction in the workplace:
1. Revive Last-Chance Agreements.
These agreements will offer drug-dependent employees a second chance to get clean — as opposed to immediate termination. The agreement is used after the first positive drug test and will condition continued employment on the worker admitting addiction and successfully completing a treatment program.
2. Expand Your Supervisor Training Program.
Implement supervisor training that covers proper methods for detecting the signs of drug use, how to conduct fitness-for-duty evaluations, when and how to do reasonable suspicious drug testing, and procedures for assisting employees when reaching out to EAPs or other treatment programs.
3. Offer Employee Education Programs and an EAP.
Adopt an education program for employees that provides information on the harmful effects of opioid abuse, recognizing signs of abuse, proper handling and storage of medicine at home, and how to access treatment for a worker or loved one. Employers should consider coordinating with their medical insurance provider to consider the benefits of offering an EAP.
The opioid crisis is a part of the workplace landscape and will continue to affect the workforce. It is important for auto dealers to stay on top of the crisis by reviewing your current policies and procedures to stay ahead of the game.
Robert Robenalt Esq. is a partner in the Columbus, Ohio, office of Fisher Phillips LP, where he represents companies in a variety of labor and employment issues.