Carl Hart, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Columbia University, thinks all drugs should be legal. That's not a shocking viewpoint--the state of Oregon just decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, and LSD. Portugal did the same but way back in 2001. But, he's taking a step further and speaking openly about his own drug use--including regularly snorting heroin as part of "work-life balance."
What if he were your employee?
This is not advice for Columbia University, as Hart is a tenured professor, which means he's not an at-will employee. He is subject to different rules than your employees, who are at-will employees. You don't have to continue employing someone who is actively using drugs, especially not someone who brags about their illegal drug usage in books.
But if he is addicted and seeking treatment, that changes.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and addiction.
The ADA recognizes addiction as a disease, and it is. As such, you need to sit down with an employee who is actively seeking treatment and do your best to find a reasonable solution. This discussion is called the interactive process, and it's required by law if you have more than 15 employees.
You don't have to tolerate someone who comes to work drunk or high, and you don't have to come to a reasonable solution for someone who is not seeking treatment. The Family Medical Leave Act can also apply, allowing greater protection for your employees.
What you can do for your employees
Tim Stein, vice president of human capital at American Addiction Centers, says,
Addiction is a brain disease. It does not discriminate. People have a tendency to believe that it's a moral deficiency or a character flaw. Addiction will hit athletes, doctors, movie stores, accountants--you name it.
Even though people from all walks of life end up addicted, people are often embarrassed by their addictions. Stein recommends you have an open-door policy to get people to seek the help they need. He encourages supporting employees in receiving treatment and asks that HR and business leaders remember this:
The other key part here is if we, as HR leaders, are going to ... separate an employee, we are basically putting them on the street with an inability to access treatment resources.
Helping someone get help can be the best thing you do for your struggling employee. Rehab treatments are expensive, though, and your business may end up taking a financial hit.
Steve Watson, the founder of Trendbreakers, a benefits consultancy, reminds HR people to help their employees get all the paperwork taken care of to maximize the insurance benefit.
What an employee most likely would need to do is go through the pre-certification process which is basically having a doctor sign off on medical necessity. The employee would have to pay up to their out-of-pocket maximum.
This maximum for the employee could be $5,000 to $10,000, and it could ultimately raise the rates for company insurance. That said, you can't prevent an employee from receiving the treatment they are entitled to. If you can help an addicted employee overcome the addiction, that's a tremendous benefit to your employee, your company, and your community.