Creating a drug-free workplace policy
A written drug-free workplace policy is one of the essentials of
an effective program. Nevertheless, employers interested in
creating a policy for the first time share some common
A written policy helps both the employer and employees to focus
on important details. Other reasons for putting the policy in
- It may be required -- for example, by the Drug-Free Workplace
Act or by an insurance carrier.
- It makes legal review possible.
- It provides a record of the employer's effort and a reference
if the policy is challenged.
- It may protect the employer from certain kinds of claims by
- A written policy is easier to explain to employees,
supervisors, and others.
If policies for similar organizations or work settings are
available, it may not be necessary to develop one from scratch.
Sample policies are likely to be found through a variety of
- From other employers
- Through community alcohol and other drug organizations
- From CSAP's Workplace Helpline at 1-800-WORKPLACE, which can
provide copies of sample policies
Before you adopt an existing policy, however, make sure it fits
your organization and your priorities. Also, consider contacting
the employer who wrote the policy to ask a few questions:
- Is the policy still in place?
- Has it been changed in any way? How? Why?
- What aspects of the policy have been most successful?
- Least successful?
- Have there been any implementation problems? How were they
A borrowed policy may not contain everything you need. When
modifying or adopting an existing policy, consider these questions
before you start to cut and paste:
- Are there federal, state, or local laws/regulations that apply
to my workplace?
- Are any of my employees covered by the terms of a collectively
- What philosophy and goals should the policy emphasize?
Prevention? Punishment? Treatment?
- Who will be covered by the policy? All employees? Employees in
certain jobs? Consultants? Contractors?
- What substances and behaviors will be prohibited?
- Will the policy include any form of drug or alcohol
- When will the policy apply? During work hours? At events after
- Where will the policy apply? In the workplace? Outside the
workplace while on duty? Off duty?
- Who will implement and enforce the policy?
Drug-free workplace groups and coalitions in your community may
have model policies or be able to connect you with other employers
who already have a policy or program in place. Since the Drug-Free
Workplace Act was passed, many local and national programs have
been set up to help employers create effective policies. Many of
these programs were created by and for employers in your community.
Finding these resources may take more than one telephone call or
letter, since there may not be a centralized list in your state or
- Look in the phone book under your city or town's name and look
for entries like "Drug-Free Business Initiative" or "Coalition for
- Call or write your state's office for alcohol and drug abuse
services and ask if they have a list of groups in or near your
- Call or write your local mayor's office, police department
community relations office, office of economic development, or
business relations office and ask if they have a list of
- Call or write your state or local Small Business Administration
and ask if they know of resources or consortia in your area.
- Call or write your chamber of commerce or business, trade, or
professional association and ask if they have services to help
employers start a drug-free workplace program.
- Call CSAP's Workplace Helpline at 1-800-WORKPLACE.
Whether you create your own policy or decide to adopt all or
part of someone else's, a successful policy will include the
- The reason for the policy
- What it is designed to do
- How it was developed
Expectations and prohibitions
- The employee behaviors that are expected
- Exactly what substances and behaviors are prohibited
Consequences and appeals
- Precisely what will happen if an employee violates the
- Procedures for determining if an employee has violated the
- How appeals will be handled
Benefits and assurances
- Efforts to help employees comply with the policy
- How requests for help will be handled
- How employee confidentiality will be protected
- How fairness and consistency will be maintained
It pays to involve employees and others in developing the
policy. Employers continually find that when employees have been
consulted about a new policy and believe their voices have been
heard, they are more likely to cooperate. Some employers set up a
task force or employee group to help develop their policy. Others
solicit broad review and comment before adopting a policy. When
employees are represented by a union, the policy may be an issue
for collective bargaining. Union representatives can offer ideas
and programs that will make the policy operate more smoothly.
It's always advisable to have a draft of a new drug-free
workplace policy reviewed by an attorney experienced in labor and
employment matters. Implementing the policy will have implications
for the job security of employees with alcohol or other drug
problems. Given the potential consequences of violating the policy,
legal review is critical. Legal review is also important because of
the growing and ever-changing body of laws and regulations about
drugs in the workplace.
The Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a
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