Alcohol Smell (Use) during Work Hours

[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 06-13-01 AT 11:09AM (CST)[/font][p]We have received an anonymous note stating that two employees sporadically "smell" of alcohol, and one was seen stumpling on a specific day. I want to confront the employees using this note but fear it could raise "motive of the writer" issues, as it is not signed. Otherwise, this would be a great opportunity to bring out into the open possible use of alcohol during company time. (We have not had performance issues relating to alcohol use). We have a good substance abuse policy, which allows for testing when employees are randomly chosen, specific complaints are received, or a manager/supervisor strongly suspects use. Any advice for me?


  • 5 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • It's difficult to comment on what YOUR policy says, but......if you've drafted a policy that addresses odor of alcohol as grounds for reasonable suspicion of impairment and your policy includes that any member of mgt can impose the testing, sounds to me as though you're able to proceed. I don't think the anonymous note has any value in confronting the employee. This s/b done based on visible observations at the time. Don't fall into the trap of imposing the drug test based on impairment that allegedly happened a few days ago.
  • If you decide to test for alcohol, don't forget to tell your testing facilty to do a blood draw. This assumes that your policy permits a bllod draw. If it doesn't, you need to rewrite your policy. By the time alcohol is detectable in urine, the employee is probably sober. You need to know what the alcohol content of the blood stream is.

    Margaret Morford
  • An oral swab (looks like a Q-tip) is now on the market and can identify alcohol in the mouth with 98% accuracy that alcohol exists in the blood. We use this first to confirm the presence of alcohol and then proceed to drawing blood. It's less invasive and people are much more willing to undergo the mouth swab first.
  • We have a drug/alcohol free workplace with a drug/alcohol policy. The smell of alcohol falls under reasonable suspicion. The problem I see here is the anonymous note. You just don't know the motive behind this note. I would talk to these employees supervisor, alert the supervisor to the possibility of them being under the influence at work and ask that supervisor to observe (discretly) the two employees for a few days. We have in the past received anonymous phone calls similar to your note and we feel we cannot act on this information because it could be a disgruntled spouse or girl/boyfriend or anyone who has it out for that employee.
  • After some years of dealing with the issue of various complaints via written notes, I have found that the best policy is: "unsigned notes will be discarded unread". An unsigned note is an attempt to coerce you into a course of action that usually meets the agenda of the note writer, not the company. With regard to alcohol abuse, you should be vigilant for it at all times. Stumbling and and smell meet the needs of "reasonable suspicion".
    A new test that is good for drug and alcohol abuse uses a small bit of hair from the tested employee. This test is particularly good with long term abuse of illegal drugs.
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