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What can we do? We suspect one of our employees is often drunk at work

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Q. We have an employee who often appears to be inebriated at work. He acts sloppy, his eyes are glassy, his speech is slurred and in the restroom we find empty whiskey bottles that we know are his brand. His coffee mug often smells like alcohol. Based on what we have seen, we think he is an alcoholic. Can we require that this employee take an alcohol test? Can we require that he get into a rehab program to keep his job?

A. Under Minnesota law, you can only require alcohol testing under a written testing policy that is Minnesota-compliant and that the employee has read. It is not necessary, however, to have an employee take an alcohol test to reasonably conclude that they have been drinking at work, or bringing alcohol to work.

It is a good idea, however, to review your policies to make sure that drinking at work or bringing alcohol to work is prohibited before you take any action.

You should also talk to the employee about what you have observed and get his explanation before you take any action. It is best to approach this discussion based on the facts you have about his conduct and appearance at work.

While your suspicion that he is an alcoholic and effort to get the employee into rehab may be well intentioned, you should not conclude that the employee is an alcoholic or needs rehab as that could raise concerns about defamation and disability discrimination.

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