Employers in today’s business world are increasingly facing serious personnel issues related to the use of opioids in the workplace. The chance of an employee using opioids during the workday has become significantly higher throughout the last decade. For the first time, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States, with 1 in 96 odds of an individual dying in an unintentional opioid overdose in their lifetime. Individuals suffering from the chronic pain of a workplace injury can be especially vulnerable to abusing prescription opioids.
An employee’s use of highly addictive prescription painkillers can present a significant safety hazard. One of the most important steps an employer can take to reduce opioid abuse at work is to establish and communicate a clear drug policy to the entire company. A written drug policy should include the consequences and penalties for using, selling, and distributing illegal opioids at work. Guidelines regarding the use of prescription opioids and mandatory drug testing should also be put in place. Many workers’ compensation and occupational health programs include instructions to their participating providers regarding the prescribing of opioids to workers.
In many cases, mandatory drug testing becomes a part of an employer’s drug policy.
Some of the most common opioids screened during employee drug testing include:
Employers should follow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines when determining under what circumstances a drug test is required. In general, employers can demand drug testing when there is a reasonable suspicion drug use is interfering with an employee’s ability to perform an essential function of their job or is posing a direct threat to the safety of the employee or others.
When an employee fails a drug test, disciplinary actions usually follow. Employers should consult with legal counsel to ensure consequences do not violate federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or state laws which allow “reasonable accommodations” for drug treatment.
By providing proper education on the risks associated with taking prescription opioids, employers can help prevent opioid abuse at work. Often there are alternative non-opioid medications available to workers, which educational programs can promote. Many employee assistance programs have drug-free workplace initiatives providing resources to individuals struggling with addiction. Part of educating employees also includes training supervisors to know the signs of impairment that often accompany opioid use.
If an employer fails to properly handle the use of opioids in the workplace, legal problems can arise. Many employers face difficult disciplinary decisions when they find out an employee is using drugs at work. With the help of an experienced employment lawyer, employers and employees can work together to avoid legal complications should opioid use at the workplace become an issue. Any drug policy instituted by an employer should adhere to state specific and federal guidelines. To navigate this sometimes complex area of the law, employers should seek out the guidance of an experienced business lawyer who can ensure proper legal compliance.
At MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser, our experienced Philadelphia business lawyers represent businesses and employers throughout Philadelphia and Chester County, Pennsylvania in a wide range of legal matters. Our offices are conveniently located in West Chester, Pennsylvania. To schedule a confidential consultation today with one of our business attorneys, call us at 484-318-7106 or submit an online inquiry form.