THE BLOG
06/03/2016 09:26 am ET | Updated Jun 03, 2016

Employee Drug Intervention: What to Expect, How to Prepare

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Image source: PhotoDune

Watching an otherwise high-performing, highly successful employee struggle with drug addiction can be an incredibly difficult and emotional experience for everyone involved. As a supervisor, it's natural to experience a host of feelings, including frustration, disappointment, and anger at your employee. If the employee is someone you mentor, you may feel a profound personal betrayal. You may worry about your employee's future and wonder how best to help. Even if you have sat down one-on-one with your employee to discuss his changing workplace performance or ask about substance abuse, this is not the same as an employee drug intervention. A professional interventionist who is experienced with workplace interventions should manage an employee drug intervention.

Legal Responsibilities for a Workplace Intervention

In many workplaces, substance abuse is grounds for termination. You can fire an employee if performance declines due to drug addiction. You have the right to drug test employees and fire them if they fail these tests per your workplace anti-drug policy. However, as a supervisor or professional mentor, it's natural to want to help your employee rather than fire him. Employees who seek professional treatment will also be protected from future firings.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Title I of the ADA covers equal employment opportunities and benefits for persons with disabilities. The ADA defines discrimination to include people who struggle with substance abuse, including alcoholism and drug addiction.

If your employee is worried about paying for treatment or the loss of wages while in rehab, remind him that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also offers protections. FMLA allows eligible employees to take an unpaid leave of absence for up to 12 weeks within a 12-month period.

Preparing for a Workplace Intervention: Why Professional Interventionists Matter

"An intervention can be an emotionally-charged event," warns Kevin Morse, an interventionist and recovery consultant with The Recovery Village Ridgefield. "It can be very uncomfortable, confusing, and scary; but in reality, it's an opportunity for positive change."

According to Morse, a well-planned intervention is broken down into three stages: trust, change, and consequence. The Recovery Village Ridgefield, like many professional treatment centers, offers an online intervention guide. These guides are helpful for educating employers about the intervention process, including what to expect and how to prepare. Remember, a successful intervention is one in which a group of loved ones comes together to confront the individual about his or her substance abuse. You may be asked to participate in an intervention by an employee's friends and family. If you do not feel comfortable participating it is certainly your prerogative to say no.

However, individuals who have a meaningful relationship with the addicted person should be ready to participate. Teams typically include a spouse or partner, parents, siblings, adult children, and close friends. As a supervisor or professional mentor, you are in a unique position to speak to the employee's changing job performance and formerly bright professional future. It is vital that addicted people feel supported and loved throughout the intervention process. You can explain to the addicted person that by seeking rehabilitation they are protecting their job (thanks to ADA and FMLA). If they continue to abuse drugs and do not seek treatment, they can be fired.

A professional interventionist will bring this group together and walk you through the different steps to intervention. This includes creating a plan for immediate next steps. If a loved one agrees to seek rehabilitation, you should have a treatment center lined up that accepts their insurance and is ready to accept your loved one into the program. A professional interventionist can assist with program selection as well as choosing a location for the intervention. Practice in advance what you will say at the meeting. Understand the roles of each participating person, who will introduce the intervention, and how to use your words as efficiently as possible.

Bottom line:

As Kevin Morse warns, waiting to treat addiction until an employee reaches "rock bottom" is like waiting to treat cancer until Stage 4 - early intervention saves lives. As a supervisor, your decision to participate in an employee intervention is not an easy choice. But with the right professional interventionist and a team of loved ones ready to provide support, the intervention may indeed save your employee's life.

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