Canadians are facing increased stresses, pressures and health issues and may be turning to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism. A recent poll completed by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction indicates that COVID-19 stress has amplified mental health and substance use concerns. As a result, the risk of workplace substance abuse has magnified to the point where employers need to actively take precautionary steps, such as supervisor reasonable suspicion training, to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.
Alcohol and drugs are known to have harmful effects on the health, safety, and overall wellbeing of individuals, colleagues, and the public. In workplaces, it can result in:
- Increases in employee injuries,
- Increases in property or equipment damage,
- Increases in absenteeism and/or sick leave,
- Increases in conflict and violence,
- Increases in turnover,
- Reduced productivity,
- Increases in theft, and
- Decreased employee morale.
Employers cannot initiate reasonable suspicion testing without first going through the 5-step process. Reasonable suspicion training provides critical information about how to initiate reasonable suspicion training, including the 5-step process and other tools employers can use to help manage the misuse of alcohol and drugs in the workplace.
What is reasonable suspicion?
Reasonable suspicion is a term used to describe circumstances that usually indicate a reason to complete an investigation or assessment of an employee’s fitness for duty or to explore possible explanations for an employee’s unusual conduct, actions, or appearance. The findings of this assessment may conclude that an individual is either under the influence of a prohibited substance or facing other physical/mental strains. If the assessment points towards possible substance impairment, reasonable suspicion testing may be required.
Tip: Don’t Enable. When you suspect that someone may be under the influence at work or may have a substance abuse issue, you have an obligation to report it. It’s common to try and protect the suspected worker by making their work tasks easier and avoiding confrontation but you are only endangering yourself and others by helping someone hide impairment in the workplace. The longer the problem goes on without intervention, the more opportunity there is for a safety incident to occur.
What is included in the 5 Step Reasonable Suspicion Process?
To properly complete an investigation or assessment of an employee’s fitness for duty, it’s important for supervisors to fully understand each step of the process to ensure:
- The observed behaviours correlate with possible alcohol and/or drug use
- The necessary documentation is collected and reported
- The appropriate conversation is had with the employee
- The alcohol and drug screens are completed only when necessary
Best Practice. Only supervisors trained in reasonable suspicion should be able to request a reasonable suspicion alcohol and drug screen. If the supervisor has not been properly educated or trained, this leaves reason to doubt the reasonable suspicion process and the employee may argue that the testing was not justified.
The 5-Step Reasonable Suspicion Process includes:
- Observation. There are 4 main indicators that will help you determine if someone may be under the influence.
- Confirmation. Get a second opinion.
- Documentation. All companies should have a reasonable suspicion checklistin their drug and alcohol policies that is readily available for all supervisors and managers.
- Confrontation. You must effectively communicate your findings with the employee.
- Testing. Check your policy – understand what testing is required.
Conclusion & Considerations
Consistency. there must be a consistent process followed to ensure that there is no bias involved. Ensuring that a consistent checklist is used, and the same process is followed for each case will assist the employer. If there are inconsistencies in the process, it can have a negative effect on the employer in the case that a complaint is filed.
Confidentiality. The reasonable suspicion process is extremely confidential and is not to be taken lightly. The entire process is not to be shared with any individual who is not privy to this information.
Subject Matter Expert Author: Erin Baird