Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
This year's second annual National Drug-Free Work Week is taking place October 14 through 20. The purpose of Drug-Free Work Week is to highlight the importance of being drug-free as an essential component of a safe and healthful workplace. Drug-Free Work Week is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor in collaboration with members of its Drug-Free Workplace Alliance.
In a press release, the Department emphasized the widespread importance to employers of Drug-Free Work Week themes, consistent with a survey completed in November 2006 for Hazelden Foundation, a national non-profit organization that helps people with addiction. The survey found that while most human resources professionals recognize substance abuse as one of the most serious problems facing the workplace today, few employers proactively address these issues but, rather, wait for problems to arise.
This dissonance between recognized adverse business impact caused by workplace substance abuse and an understated approach likely stems from employers’ concerns about intruding on employees’ privacy and accusing employees of wrongdoing when the signs of a problem, at the onset, are usually very subtle. The TMI (too much information) approach, thus, appears to be the order of the day at most companies, unless and until faced with very unacceptable behaviors.
Ignoring problems arising from workplace substance abuse (higher absenteeism, reduced productivity, missed deadlines, safety, etc.), as with most problems, will not make them go away, and Drug-Free Work Week is a perfect time for employers to reconsider the benefits of taking a more moderate and pro-active approach to workplace substance abuse policy development and administration. As Elena Carr, drug policy coordinator at the Labor Department observes: “[o]f course, in a safe and healthful workplace, every week should be Drug-Free Work Week."