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With the excitement of Christmas, family celebrations and parties behind us, the months after the holidays can be difficult for many. Add to that the consistently dreary weather, and you have a recipe for winter doldrums. 

It’s no surprise that this time of year, workplaces throughout the Pacific Northwest see an uptick in employees being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work. 

Signs a co-worker might be under the influence at work: 

According to the federal Office of Personnel Management, employers have legitimate interests in employee drinking “when the use or abuse of alcohol interferes with the employee’s ability to perform his or her duties.” In addition to productivity losses, drug or alcohol abuse at work could be a serious safety problem. Supporting your employees means knowing what to look for so they can get the help they need and other employees can be protected. 

Signs an employee might be under the influence of or abusing alcohol or drugs might include the following, according to OPM: 

  • Attendance issues (unexplained or unauthorized absences, frequent tardiness, excessive use of sick leave, patterns of absence after paydays or weekends, frequent unplanned absences). 
  • Performance problems (missed deadlines, careless or sloppy work, incomplete assignments, unmet quotas, frequent excuses for incomplete assignments or missed deadlines). 
  • Relationships (strained relationships with co-workers, belligerence, argumentativeness, social isolation, frequently borrowing money). 
  • Behavior (smell of alcohol, staggering or unsteady gait, bloodshot eyes, mood and behavior changes such as excessive laughter and inappropriate loud talk, excessive use of mouthwash or breath mints, avoidance of supervisory contact, especially after lunch, tremors, sleeping on duty). 

Read the signs? Here’s what to do next: 

The presence of these signs don’t guarantee that an employee is under the influence or has a problem with drug or alcohol addiction, but it should trigger a reasonable suspicion test. (As we’ve said before: When in doubt, test, in accordance with your company policy.) 

Don’t have a workplace drug and alcohol policy? Get one right away. A good workplace policy should lay out exactly what to do when you suspect a team member might be under the influence, including guidelines for workplace drug testing. Following the steps in your policy carefully can help protect your company and the employee in question. Bostec can help with this; we have decades of experience creating robust workplace policies that comply with local, state and federal laws, and we work with companies not only in Bellingham, Ferndale and Lynden, but throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma. 



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