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Employer needs advice re: employee's heroin addiction
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Employer needs advice re: employee's heroin addiction

Hello-
I hope this is not an inappropriate question to ask on this forum, and I hope it does not sound naive because I don't know much about addiction issues.  I have spent the last few hours Googling and this seemed like a good place to ask my question.
I own a small business with about 10 employees.
It has just come to my attention that one of my most valued employees has relapsed into drug addiction and is back to shooting heroin. She has worked with us for about 3 years.
After we hired her 3 years ago, she eventually disclosed that she was a former heroin user and had contracted Hep C and we made some accomodations to her work schedule to allow her doctor's appts, etc as she said she was undergoing some treatments for that disease.
Anyway, this is a stellar employee with no attendance or performance issues at work. However, I learned today third-hand and on good authority that she has resumed a serious, daily (?) habit.
I don't know much about heroin addiction and am not sure how to handle this.
We have a drug and alcohol policy that prohibits drug use on the job or bringing drugs onto the premises - I think she is abiding by this. But employees are also prohibited from coming to work under the influence of drugs and alcohol. I assume that since she is addicted, the mere fact that she is coming to work and functioning means that she is on it? We are permitted to do a drug test if we believe that an employee is under the influence of something.
I guess I have three options here:
1) Ignore the information that I have. Her drug use is her own business and as long as she is showing up for work, doing a good job, and showing no signs of being high, just stay out of it unless something changes.
2) Drug test her and then fire her. She is most likely violating our drug and alcohol policy by coming to work under the influence of it.  I can't risk hurting the business if something were to happen or customers were to learn that I am allowing employees to come to work on heroin. (This is not a retail type business, but one of some responsibility where customer trust is paramount.)
3) Meet with her and tell her that I know. Give her an ultimatum to get treatment and off the drugs to continue working for us.
4) Meet with her and tell her that I know. Tell her that what she does outside of work is her own business, but that if we ever think she is high at work or starts having perfomance issues, she will be drug tested and fired if it's positive.
Thoughts?
Is it possible that I could keep her, ignore this, and have this NOT end badly?
Or if you can think about it objectively from my perspective, should I let her go if she won't get off the drugs, since she is already likely violating the policy and the risk to my business to keep her is too great?
Thank you for any insights that may help me..
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19 Comments Post a Comment
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677105_tn?1226277913
My opinion would be to meet with her and ask her about her problem and see what she says.  Hopefully if she is using, she will ask for the time off to get help.  I would handle it this way since she is such a stellar employee.  I was addicted to drugs while working as a nurse and was a great nurse.  No one knew it until I was caught dipping into the floors medications.  They allowed me to go to treatment and then let me back to work as long as I followed conditions such as random drug tests, counseling, etc.
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495284_tn?1333897642
I would sit her down and talk to her.   You can do this with caring and understanding but also being firm with her.  Hopefully she will take the treatment option and get the help.  It will be up to her.........if she doesnt accept the help then you have to protect yourself and the other employees.  Most bosses would just kick em to the curb so i commend you in caring about her.  Good luck..........sara
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Avatar_f_tn
I think some would depend on how reliable the source is that brought this to your attention.Is it possible it's not true?Do you see any changes in her personality,appearance,work?Do you feel as though you have substantial evidence to suspect her or drug test her?I guess what I'm trying to say is that I wouldn't just go on rumors.You should be sure what you heard carries some hard core truth before you take it any further.All the best....Kim
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340590_tn?1290955741
wow, what an an awesome employer you are to cre enough to come here and ask questions.  i think i would talk to her and tell her i knew and ask her to get help.  chances are she will respond favorably.  maybe you could explain you are concerned and she is a great employee and you want to help her.  tell her you are willing to give her a chance to stop the drugs and get the help she needs.  also tell her you will in the very near future start drug testing her on a regular , random basis.   also tell her if she is not willing to do this you have no choice but to fire her.  oggd luck to you and her and let us know how it goes.
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Avatar_m_tn
I have never used heroin nor do i know much about the drug, but first you must find out for certain she is back to using. If she admits to it, then you can take it from there, but chances are she will not and can do a drug test to see. She disclosed she is a former H user and was honest with you. If in fact she has relapsed and using everyday then maybe it's time for an ultimatum or some way to get her some help. We as addicts usually need a bottom of some type to stop, it's so hard to get through to us in active use. As an employer, im sure you feel it would be easier to let her just go, IF in fact she is using, but as you say, she  has been reliable for 3 years. This is a tough one and as an addict i want to hear her get help again before it's too late. I would go directly to her first and have a good talk. Just giving you my opinion. I commend you for caring like this. Good luck.
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710513_tn?1247526079
What if yo meet with her tell her your concerns and tel her that you ht=think a drug test is in order but you are willing to wait 3 weeks before yu require the test.. and that you would very much like to ariiive at a decision to allow her to stay employed nut if she fails the drug test and is not in treatment than your only option is to terminate...

I had to deal with a valuable employee who one several occasions arrive reaking of alcohol...it got to the point where i confronted them and sent the home for the day..ANd informed them that a repeat of this and i would terminate them....If they choose soem help from our Employeee assistance program I would accomadate that.  but Arrivng at work still intoxicated would not be tolerated....

They went home came back the next day thanked me and said they were going to try and handle it on htier own.....That was 11 years ago and we still have a very valuabe employee....
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548568_tn?1291850924
Hi,
I also think you are wonderful to care so much as an employer.
I would verify the rumor with her. I work with 60 women and
I can tell you , rumors start from one wrong word said from one person.
I think if she trusts you she will be honest.
Good luck,
paaddict
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614508_tn?1265285322
Hi,
My comments are going to come from a different perspective. Althought it's gracious of you to care about your employee, there are legal and quasi legal issues that you should be aware of.  In most jurisdictions, addictions are deemed illnesses and an employee can not be summarily dismissed due to an addiction regardless of their employment contract.  Also, the addiction must affect the work/work product of the employee,safety  of the employee(s) and the workplace (including driving). The health care coverage you carry on your employees may have coverage for rehab. Addressing the situation with the employee must be done very carefully as you do not want to put yourself in the situation where the employee has grounds for constructive dismissal. I would suggest that you contact your local labour law branch to determine the law in your jurisdiction before you open yourself up to liability on the basis of disability discrimination, occupational health and safety, wrongful or constructive dismissal.
Good Luck,
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729871_tn?1265680473
If you care enough about this employee to post a bulletin for advice I'd say your best approach would be to ask her yourself. If she admits to using and agrees to get treatment to quit, I would give her the time off to address the issue and then drug test her when she returns to verify she is clean.
If she admits to using and refuses treatment or drug screening, I would say that would be grounds for termination.
If for some reason she denies it, I would have her tested anyway for validity. If she passes, great. If not, she should be terminated.
Regardless of how great an employee is if they are violating the drug and alcohol policy, then their job couldn't mean that much to them.
By you approaching them first instead of an automatic termination, that shows a lot on your end. That being said though you need to keep the best interest of your business in mind. That should be your top priority.
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693583_tn?1376061660
What a bad situation. I found out a few years ago that my best friend, who had been working for my dad was using heroin again. His girlfriend confessed to me at a really bad time for me personally, but I knew I HAD to tell my dad. It didn't occur to me that he had relapsed because I wasn't around (I was out of the country) but they had mentioned that he had been sick and would take really long bathroom breaks. My dad had given him a company cell phone, was paying half of his insurance and had been cutting him checks early each week which should have been a sign because he was paid well enough to cover his bills. Turns out he wasn't paying them. My dad didn't want to believe it but confronted him after stressing out for a few days because he was a GREAT employee and practically a member of our family. My friend broke down and confessed but the damage was done. Pills were found in the company truck, so he had been using on the job which could have been disastrous, deadly, no exaggeration. For some reason my dad didn't get the phone back right then and I was bringing it up constantly until he went back a week or two later. My dad ended up with about $400 extra on his phone bill that month. It was a nightmare. The business lost it's best employee, I lost my best friend because I couldn't handle the situation and had to separate myself and despite having the rug yanked out from under him and being pretty humiliated in front of his family, my family and our friends, he continued to use for a few more years. He is finally clean after a long stink in rehab.
I'm telling you this because heroin is no joke, it's not a casual drug. I've never used it personally but I've seen first hand what it can do to people close to me. I would drug test her and talk to her about rehab and aftercare. She may be willing to admit to it and seek help, she may be desperate for help. But then again she may get defensive and deny it. Either way you'll have the drug test to verify what is really going on because for the time being it is just a rumor. Until you find out what is going on you're taking a chance that it might be true and something bad could happen in the meantime. I wish you the best of luck with this situation, it's a difficult one!
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Avatar_f_tn
my family owns a few small weekly newspapers, the people who work for the paper are like family to us
one day it got to be obvious that i was on herion, someone told my dad, and i was in rehab a few weeks later
man, that was years ago
my point is this, we are all part of some sort of community, and we all need eachother
i suggest that you drug tested her first, we sometimes lie about using, and there are a million ways to beat a drug test
you can buy an inexpensive test at cvs, or send her to labcore
when dealing with an addict, keep yourself safe first (in this case your bussiness) and then lend a hand to the suffering person
wish you the best of luck
she is lucky to have you in her life
xo
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you all for the thoughtful replies. I am going to read them again and then sleep on it.  I wanted to answer a couple of things that were brought up here. First is that the information I have is reliable and I have no doubts that it is true. I would though, verify with a drug test before taking any disciplinary action, if we even end up going that way. She does not, in my opinion, show any signs that were mentioned in terms of her behavior and appearance at work. Nonetheless, I am positive that the info I have is right and she is back to using heroin.

I did some research and in my state, I am not allowed to drug test current employees unless I have reasonable suspicion that they are impaired on the job - and I don't know if hearsay is enough for that or if that criteria would have to be met by her having performance or attendance issues. I do have to do some research into the legal ramifications of all this, as suggested by edmfender.

I appreciate the personal stories that some of you have shared.

I guess what I want to know is, is it possible for someone to be a functioning user of this drug if they are doing it regularly (weekly or daily) and IV (this seems most hardcore to me)?   Is it possible that she can keep this from escalating and having it effect her work?  Because I fear that if I do approach her, she will deny it, and I might not legally be able to ask her to take a drug test.  
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Avatar_f_tn
I don't have any personal experience with heroin,but I'm an addict and I can say with some certainty that,if she is using it will escalate and eventually effect her work and all other aspects of her life.I don't know about the legalities.I just think shes really lucky to have an employer who cares so much about her.I commend you for that and wish you all the best.....Peace...Kim
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Avatar_m_tn
Hi...you didn't say what State you're in but in Florida, the law states that the employer/employee relationship is a 'right to work State' meaning the employee can be let go w/o any reason.  

I agree with the posts about speaking with her about the possible issue.  Since she confided in you about her past, she may be willing to open up again.  Who knows, maybe she had one slip and is over it...it does happen.  Threatening an employee is usually non-productive but objectively analyzing a situation and working towards a positive outcome - change the employee's behavior (or at least the perception) is usually the best bet.  Doing so provides a commitment from both sides to ensure performance standards and expected behaviors are met.  If this counseling session fails, then you have no option but to terminate because of the liability issues.

Good Luck


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303824_tn?1294875001
If she is indeed ON heroin at work, you most likely know it. From what I understand about heroin, it's a downer. I have actually witnessed people "nodding" in and out and I think it makes you sleepy and tired while feeling really good. This would obviously affect her work performance. You seem like a wonderful, caring boss, and I bet if you talk to her she just might talk to you about this again. I am concerned, however, about if she isn't using on the job, or using at all, she will think that people are talking about her, which could lead to problems in the workplace. I guess it's all a Catch 22 and you will have to use your best judgement. I came to my boss with my addiction and he is the one who helped me! Maybe if you offer her some support and job security (if you still want her to stay with the company), then things will be okay.
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303824_tn?1294875001
One more thing... Heroin is a VERY serious drug to be addicted to, so beware of this if you get proof she is using. Your company has to come first and having a heroin addict is a huge liability to the company and your other employees.
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Avatar_f_tn
I can't say if she is or isn't on dope again but I'm commenting as if she were. Believe it or not it may be hard to tell if she's on heroin unless you're really looking for it. No one knew I did dope for years not family or different jobs. My last job knew some of my history with dugs and they still had no clue when I started using again. There are those of us that only show you what we want you to see. Then there are others who will nod out in public and other extreme things. Looking for pinned out pupils, excessive scrathing especially on the nose, abnormal energy, track marks, frequent breaks/trips to the bathroom are some telltale things in the beginning. Once she starts getting dopesick the harder it will be to hide the use. If you have a close relationship with her you should definitely speak with her. It's so hard to admit a relapse and ask for help again and again like that. Do what you can to make an impact and help her if she'll take it. But please keep in mind that we are liars/manipulators and your business should be your first priority. Good luck!
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Avatar_m_tn
You are a credit to employers everywhere to have great compassion - and a stellar employee is worth some effort. My first approach would be to approach her away from the office and in a social manner. Just discuss what you heard and lay it out for her that you are concerned. And dont threaten, but submit that you may have ask her to detail explaining her status if perfomance fails or signs of constantly being under influence do develop.  This is frequently, and unfortunately,a progressive problem and disease.  A decent employee with minor problems is probably quite competent. But that will not last as the progression advances. Obviously early treatment and recognition is the best. May the entire world enjoy more employers yourself as perceptions change........
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Avatar_f_tn
What a wonderful friend and employer you are.  Find out from her if you can, let her know you care, do not make her feel defensive.  Your heart and brain will tell you what to do best.  But remember, like the others have said, take care of your business, if you send her to rehab it will do her no good  if there  is not business to cme back to.
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