A reader calls me about a friend. He called me in response to my entry about drug testing and zero tolerance policies. My entry actually was based in part on another blog entry by Mike Maslanka, a noted employer side attorney. Mike’s point and mine was that an employer should be prepared to allow exceptions to its zero tolerance policy on drug use. The caller mentioned his friend.
The caller’s friend worked at a plant in a northern state for 40 months. He had some foot problem, so he tried a pain killer used by his wife. He took one pill. Three days later, the plant had an unannounced drug test and the friend tested positive for some controlled substance. He presented notes from his doctor and his wife’s doctor. But, still, despite 40 months without a blemish, he was fired.
Does that make sense? The caller did not think so. The caller himself was a hospital administrator for many years. He terminated people when he had to. But, he did allow exceptions when he thought it proper. The goal in every business is to hire and retain the best people. Once an employee is trained, he has "extra" value. When I was a National Guard Company Commander, I was very interested in retaining the best soldiers. Even an average soldier had considerable value once he had attended a few Army schools. I forget the exact amount, but it took tens of thousands of dollars to train a solider through the rank of Staff Sergeant. Staff Sergeant would be equivalent to a section lead in the civilian sector.
I cannot imagine terminating a 40 month employee without a blemish. Could they not have simply put him on probation? Was there no time for a final warning? It does appear to me that at least one plant in some northern state lacks leadership.