From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...
The U.S. opioid addiction crisis is hitting the workplace hard, and employers should be ready to address it, practitioners say.
Some 4.3 million people say they’re using prescription painkillers non-medically, and drug overdose is the leading cause of “injury death” in the U.S., attorney James Reidy notes, citing Department of Health and Human Services data. That’s ahead of motor vehicles or firearms, the management-side labor and employment attorney in the Manchester, N.H., office of Sheehan Phinney said.
Widespread opioid abuse costs employers approximately $12 billion annually, with roughly 10 percent to 12 percent of American workers under the influence of drugs at work, Reidy said. In some industries such as construction, trucking or manufacturing, the numbers are even higher, he said March 13 at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Legal & Legislative Conference in Washington.
Testing for opioid and opiate abuse is complicated, Dr. Todd Simo, chief medical officer for employment background check provider HireRight, told Bloomberg BNA March 13. While the average drug test does include some opiate and opioid screening, the focus is on illegal substances, Simo said. Many employers don’t test for oxycodone, fentanyl or Demerol, he said.
“Workplace programs are designed around deterrents, and not specifically detection,” Simo said. The purpose is to deter people from using illegal drugs, but it’s much more difficult to deter employees from using legal substances, he added.
“The problem with opioids—especially when compared to marijuana or alcohol—is that users are well hidden in the workplace,” Reidy said. But even if the drug use isn’t obvious, the impact on the workplace persists, he said.
HR professionals should look for various signs of abuse, he says, including:
In terms of testing, screening for synthetic opioids isn’t as widespread as it should be, and employers often don’t have policies that deal with prescription drugs specifically, Reidy said. “It’s a major health and safety issue,” he said.
Employers may want to consider opioid-specific policies that include working with local police and EMTs on opioid response and providing access to NARCAN, a medicine to counter the effects of opioids, and other overdose response equipment or medications, Reidy said.
If an employer has reasonable suspicion that a person is impaired at work or showing signs of drug abuse, there are several ways to address it, Simo said. In addition to ordering a drug screen, employers should have a physician do a medical evaluation, he said. This can be helpful because a lot of people who look profoundly impaired could actually be having a life-threatening event, Simo said. These evaluations can also reveal whether there’s an addiction involved, he added.
Employers should have policies that allow for a recurrent drug testing program, and a for-cause testing program, Simo recommended. And an employer’s medical review officer should communicate with HR about findings and safety concerns and take action as appropriate, he said.
An organization’s employee assistance program is also a good resource for workers with substance abuse problems. EAPs are important in getting employees the help they need and also help employers hold on to top employees with addictions. Recruitment and hiring costs can sometimes be even more expensive than rehabilitation, Simo said.
With regard to opioid abuse, he added, each policy should cater to the unique needs of the workplace.
To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)