Reasonable Suspicion of Nanny’s Drug or Alcohol Use

reasonable suspicion of drug or alcohol useEnsuring a safe and healthy workplace is a top concern of household employers, and one of the ways to accomplish this is to inform your nanny or other employee that drug and alcohol use is not permitted. But what if you suspect your nanny is not following this rule?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers may be able to identify workers with substance abuse problems by noting aspects of their performance and behavior. While these symptoms may not mean that a worker has an alcohol or a drug abuse problem, employers should be alert to any of these aspects and may have a nanny or other household employee submit to a drug test on “reasonable suspicion.” It is very helpful to have documentation of what observable physical characteristics and behaviors were used as a basis for that reasonable suspicion in case you are ever challenged on it.

Remember, it is not the employer’s job to diagnose substance abuse, but it is the employer’s job to ensure health and safety within the work environment. Clear and firm communication with the employee focused on his or her job performance is key, as is explaining the drug-free workplace policy, performance policies, and what will occur when performance expectations are not met.

Our friends at GTM Payroll Services have created an Alcohol and Drug Use Reasonable Suspicion Checklist to guide you on what symptoms to look for and what testing procedures to follow should you deem it necessary.

For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.


Drug Use in the Workplace – Your Home

drug use in the workplaceMarijuana has been in the news a lot lately. In recent years, recreational use has become legal in Colorado, Washington, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington D.C. Plus more than twenty-five states allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Recent polls show, for the first time in history, that a majority of Americans would approve of complete legalization of marijuana. So what does all this mean for employers (including household employers), particularly those in states where recreational use is legal or may become legal?

The important thing to remember is that none of these laws require an employer to allow drug use in the workplace, or to tolerate employees who come to work under the influence. If you have a drug-free policy in place for your home, you are not required to alter it. Therefore, your nanny or other employee that violates this policy can still be disciplined or terminated, regardless of what the laws in New York are regarding marijuana legality.

The difficulty that may arise in an employer’s mind relates to what your employee does in their time away from your home, their workplace. If your nanny has a few drinks after work, you might not think twice about it. But if she smoked marijuana after work (if you lived in a state where it’s legal), would you have a different reaction?

This all comes down to your personal choices, and these issues should be discussed with a candidate prior to hiring. You have the right to implement a drug-free workplace policy. Included in the employee handbook, the policy needs to clearly state why the policy is being implemented—to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. Include consequences, such as immediate dismissal, but take care that these consequences are consistent with other existing personnel policies, and of course, any applicable laws.

In the drug-free workplace policy, an employer may want to include information on drug testing. While most private employers have the right to test for a wide variety of substances, federal, state, and local regulations may apply. However, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers who drug test without a drug-testing policy are exposed to liability. Employers may request that employees take a drug test after a job is offered and that employment is contingent upon a successful outcome. Local drug stores sell drug testing kits for about $20.

Again, just because marijuana is now legal in many places, you still have the right to enforce a drug-free environment for your workplace. If the laws change in New York, it may be prudent to make changes to your policy to clarify what you expect from your employee in terms of impairment, safety, marijuana use, and termination.

Contact us for more information at (518) 348-0400.