Responding to a Tip
(Winter 2017) Real Life Incidents: Working Partners® Consortium members receive phone support and consultation about drug-free workplace (DFWP) issues — a benefit we term “troubleshooting.” Here is a brief description of a troubleshoot call and our response/suggestions.
An experienced Program Administrator (PA), who runs the drug-free workplace program for a construction company, contacted our office regarding a tip she had just received about a crew of her employees. She received an anonymous call from a woman who claimed she just passed three men, driving a company-marked vehicle, smoking and passing around a “blunt” (i.e., a hollowed-out cigar filled with marijuana.) The tipster provided a description of each employee, their specific location and vehicle number.
The PA shared she was able to confirm through GPS that the specific truck identified was on that road at the identified time. The employees scheduled to be in the truck met the description reported. The PA felt confident that this tip was worth further investigation, especially considering the safety-sensitive nature of their work.
The PA also added that this crew of three men were headed to a safety-sensitive job site where the client would be present, and thought she should call us to determine the best way to handle the situation since there were so many tricky issues at play.
You’ll always hear us say, “REACT to, don’t ACT on a tip!” Tips are not facts, but rather indicators that more information needs to be gathered. However, since this tip seemed fairly credible and the crew was currently in a car, the first thing that needed addressed was safety.
We talked through options of getting the crew off the road to do reasonable suspicion observations, such as contacting the employees in the truck by phone and having them pull over, meeting them at the job site, or even contacting highway patrol with the tip. Given the time, the employees would be arriving at the job site soon, so the PA decided to dispatch their DFWP-trained operations manager to the site to meet them. In order to preserve as much information as possible and not give the employees a heads up, she did not notify the crew that the operations manager would be there upon their arrival.
After the PA instructed the operations manager to go to the site ASAP to conduct his reasonable suspicion observations, the PA called back to discuss logistics for getting the employees tested, if necessary, including transportation to the collection site, sending another crew to finish the job and managing the relationship with the client. The PA utilized her drug testing vendor’s website to find a collection facility near the job site and was sending messages to another supervisor to determine if another crew would be available on short notice. We terminated the call until the PA heard from the operations manager.
Within 30 minutes, the PA and operations manager called Working Partners® to describe their findings.
The operations manager said he observed the employees’ behavior from afar, including performance and motor skills utilizing items from his Reasonable Suspicion Checklist. He then interacted with the three employees individually looking for signs of reasonable suspicion with regard to appearance. At first blush, everyone appeared normal. They communicated appropriately, didn’t appear to have bloodshot eyes or any odor. The operations manager told them about the tip and stood quietly while the employee’s provided their side of the story. Each employee denied using marijuana, but admitted to smoking cigarettes in the vehicle on the way to the site this morning. We asked about their rules for smoking in a company vehicle. The PA indicated that employees have been given permission to do so provided the other passengers are okay with it.
The operations manager then searched the company vehicle for any paraphernalia or odor relating to marijuana. He found a pack of cigarettes and noticed a slight odor of cigarette smoke, but nothing pertaining to marijuana.
Even though the manager could not substantiate the tip, they both agreed that the tip was very compelling and didn’t feel comfortable just letting the situation go. We discussed ways management could make some future adjustments to address concerns:
- Increase supervision for the employees in question through unannounced site visits and direct observation – being mindful of any concerning signs or symptoms of substance abuse
- Revisit their smoking policy and consider not allowing smoking of any kind in company vehicles
- Request that this year’s employee education focus on marijuana
The company decided to take pieces of all three suggestions. The PA immediately agreed that marijuana needed to be addressed at the next education session. Since Working Partners® handles their annual sessions, we made a note on their account. The PA indicated she would address their capacity for additional supervision and outline expectations in the next supervisor meeting, as well as revisit their smoking policy. The PA and operations manager both added that, it’s not likely they’ll make adjustments to their smoking policy given the backlash it would cause, but they will at least take this opportunity to review it.
When making action-decisions, always think comprehensively about the situation you are involved in and are creating by your actions. Also, consider the what-if scenarios to aid in determining direction. Most importantly, you could do what the PA with this situation did if you are part of our consortium:
Call Working Partners® Consortium at (614) 337-8200 or 866-354-3397.
As a member of Working Partners® Consortium, don’t forget your access to this troubleshooting service. Be safe, not sorry!
DISCLAIMER: This publication is designed to provide accurate information regarding the subject matter covered. It is provided with the understanding that those involved in the publication are not engaged in rendering legal counsel. If legal advice is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.