Setting an Office Alcohol Policy for Your Businesses  

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Office alcohol policies should be thorough and written down, for businesses can face a host of legal consequences if their policy towards adult beverages isn’t formalized. Even a simple policy of “don’t drink at work” needs to be detailed.

If your business doesn’t already have an existing policy in place, you’ll want advice from several people when creating one so that you can include all the necessary elements. Here are the people to talk to, and how they’ll help you.

Lawyers Who Know Federal and State Laws

A lawyer who specializes in employee benefits will know what federal and state laws your business must follow when drafting a policy.

There aren’t any federal laws regarding alcohol policies that apply to all businesses, but businesses in certain sectors must adhere to regulations set forth by federal agencies. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation requires that all businesses under its jurisdiction have drug and alcohol testing programs in place for all employees who operate commercial vehicles. Whether your business must adhere to these or any similar requirements will depend on what industry the business is in.

Laws vary at the state level. For example:

  • California prohibits random testing
  • Connecticut restricts random testing to safety-sensitive workers and EAP employees
  • Hawaii defines a positive result as a .02 or greater BAC
  • Idaho requires employers who conduct tests to have a written policy
  • Maine has multiple requirements restricting how tests are conducted
  • Maryland limits the specimens that can be used in pre-employment settings
  • Texas requires some employers to report positive results to the Department of Transportation

This is just a sampling of the many different state laws that exist. Because there’s so much variation, you’ll need to speak with a lawyer who practices in the state where your business has employees. That may mean talking with multiple lawyers if there are employees in several states.

Your Insurance Agent

Your business’s insurance agent will have two pieces of helpful information.

First, there are a number of states that offer discounts on workers compensation insurance premiums to businesses that implement drug and alcohol testing policies. Your business’s agent will know whether your business can qualify for any such discount. They’ll also be familiar with any requirements that the policy must meet to qualify for any available discount.

Second, the agent will be able to review your business’s insurance policies to see whether they offer any coverage for alcohol-related incidents. Restricting alcohol usage to only covered situations will keep our business from being exposed to potential liabilities that it doesn’t have protection for.

The Head of Human Resources

Once you’ve talked with a lawyer and insurance agent, meet with the head of human resources to actually draft a policy. They’ll have advice on creating a policy, and they’ll be the person responsible for overseeing the policy’s implementation. (If you don’t have a head of HR, meet with whoever oversees your business’ employee benefits programs.)

The meeting should encompass:

  • If allowed, what are the circumstances (hours, events, etc)
  • Whether drug and alcohol testing will be conducted
  • What the consequences for failing a test are
  • How employees will be notified of the new policy

After the policy is drafted, have the lawyer you spoke with give it a final review and then put the policy in place. Your business will be better protected with the policy in effect, and employees will know exactly what is and isn’t allowed

Author

Director of Marketing at Plastiq

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