Co-worker Coming to Work High

Updated on January 20, 2011
A.P. asks from Cleveland, OH
16 answers

So I have a co-worker who has been missing alot of work due to some medical isses. She is taking prescription medication (percocet) for her medical issues. I and other co-workers feel she is abusing the medications by how frequently she is taking them. Well this has been an on going this for months but in the last 3 or 4 months have gotten worse. Today when she came in to work after missing the last 2 days due toher medical problem she was clearly high. My boss says there is nothing that she can do at this point because it is all suscpion. I feel that at a medicalfacilty there is something she should be able to do with the idea that an employee is high. What I am loooking for is what are the options my boss or us as employees can do about this. We are frankly fed up with the fact that she is always missing work, comes in late, and when she gets to work she never really gets anythng done. We listen to her complain about her medical problems all the time, her home life problems and frankly it is getting old. Any advice would be great!!!! I don't want to put too much personal information into this in case she uses this website. It is a small office I work in. But som additional information is that she is getting medical treatment from a doctor but if the doctor won't prescribe her pain medication she seeks it elsewhere. She has asked me for pain medication which I have due to back pain. I mean I understand if you are sick your sick but she has taken 22 days in 2 months off. She calls off at least once a week for her medical condition. Also as a medical professional I can say that she is abusing medication because she is taking the percocet more frequently then it is prescribed to her on the bottle. also today when she came to work she had the glassed over eyes, had a phone conversation with the recording on the voicemail while she was listening to her messages , slurred speech, then after 2 hours at work she could hardly keep her head up and her eyes open!! It is just getting frustrating because I am now picking p her slack and I have enough work on my plate.

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answers from Dallas on

An employer has the right to request drug testing. The only catch is, they have to drug test everyone. They can't just single out one person. I experienced the same issue at a company I worked for.

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answers from Houston on

If she were fired, she could complain due to the American disability act. However, people can still lose their jobs if they are disabled if the employer has met all requirements but the person is taking advantage of them. It's a sticky situation.

Complaining all day, sitting at the desk whining about personal problems so she leave work uncompleted and lack of work due to laziness is not a part of her disability. If her employer was wise, she should have write-ups for her behavior and counseling with the hr department, essentially, building a paper trail against her.

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answers from Little Rock on

I have written and rewritten my response several times tonight. I am going to say one thing, and bid you a good night.
What you say about your coworker is slanderous and unethical. It is sad that you claim to be a "medical professional" yet you seem to not care about this woman or her livelyhood.
I pray that you never suffer from any debilitating illnesses.

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answers from Kalamazoo on

Well, I guess this would depend on what her medical issues are and if by "high" you mean on her prescription meds? My MIL (who is now on disability) started having back problems about 3 yrs ago from a previous injury that happend in her 20's. She was (and still is) in constant pain and can't be in either a sitting or a standing position for too long. When this first started happening, she was working, so yes, she went to work on her pain meds just to be able to function. At that point she couldn't get approved for disability yet. She couldn't just quit her job - everyone needs money ya know? Anyway, 4 back surgeries later, she does qualify for disability, is on constant pain meds and spends half her day laying down flat on her back to control the pain.

My point is, try to see this from her point of view IF she does have legitimate health issues. What do you want her to do? Quit her job, have no money to support herself? I agree the complainnig thing would get annoying, but just excuse yourself and move on with your work. If she is missing work and coming in late, I'm assuming your boss can just handle that like he would any other employee? Are you this woman's supervisor or something? I don't think it's appropriate for the boss to discuss employees with other employess.........

*also my MIL is on percocet for during the day pain med and I know they are very stict on how many she is given for a month. It's almost impossible to over use them because they are so tightly prescibed because they are a very popular "illegal" prescription med. So unless she is buying extras illegally, it would be hard to way over use them - they just don't give out that many.

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answers from San Francisco on

If you are concerned about your co-worker, go to higher authority in private and tell them your concerns. Then leave it alone. Its pretty risky to air your negative feelings about this woman on here where she uses the site! let her doctors worry about the amount she is taking--maybe she is taking less than you think and its affecting her differently? Either way, it isn't really any of your business. Medical issues are private. Period.

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answers from New York on

You mention that you are a medical professional, so, do you work somewhere that involves patient care? Is your co-worker caring for patients or does she have responsibilities that can cause grave consequeces if she makes a mistake? If so, you have a responsibility to go up the chain of command until something is done about the situation. If patients or clients are involved you need to advocate for their protection

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answers from Los Angeles on

If she has direct patient contact, then it's really not ok. You may have to go up to your boss's superviser and let him/her know your concerns.



answers from Los Angeles on

I'm in Human Resources so here is my advice...

It is all suspicion unless your manager starts documenting what is going on. Once there is enough proof and she violates more of the attendance policy she can probably be written up or terminated. During this time a manager cannot tell you what is going on with disciplinary issues so even if it looks like he isn't doing anything he just might be documenting. Unfortunately these things are not cut and dry especially if she has a medical condition for which she can be legally protected. If you really want to bring this to light, I would talk to HR and provide them with examples of what you list here. If they are a good dept they will investigate it by first speaking with the manager and providing guidance.



answers from Cincinnati on

I advise small employer in Ohio on these very issues so her is my advice. First, let's look at whether or not your company has an Employy Handbook listing the company's policies? If not, no better time then the present to do that. What about a Drug & Alcohol Policy? If not, no better time then the present. But the answer to these two questions is huge on answering what your company can do. If these policies are well written, then they should say what should be done. The policy I favor would give the employer the ability to determine Reasonable Suspicion, document the behavior and reasons for suspicion and require a drug and\or alcohol test. It doesn't matter she has a prescription because a proper testing protocol would require a Medical Review Officer to review any positive results and determine if their is a prescription that covers it and if the amount of the prescription would produce those kinds of levels in her system. The value of testing is that it recognizes that employers are not experts in biology and drugs and leaves these determinations to qualified third party professionals.
Now, her annoying behavior, her poor work performance, and her excessive absences are three separate issues. The company should determine if they are violating company policy. Is her employment covered by FMLA Family Medical Leave Act? Probably not if you are a single entity small office. Does the company have a medical leave policy? Has there been any precedents set regarding another employee taking a medical leave and for how long?
Annoying behavior could be a violation of a policy on professionalism. Poor work performance could be a violation by insubordination.
The other issue that I saw someone bring up in another comment is protection under the American Disabilities Act. She may be protected but this is a very complex and very subjective law that is always being modified or clarified through case law. Don't want to be one of the cases. However, in order to be protected by the ADA, an addict has to have stopped violating the company's drug policy. The ADA does not allow under it's protection an employee to continue misusung or abusing drugs.
Let's say there are no policies or handbooks. The company can't drug test her or write her up for policy violation. The company can implement such policies, but in the interim, they can implement for ALL employees performance evaluations and establish a beginning dialogue regarding work expectations and set a time period to resolve issues before being written up. If this employee was granted some kind of intermittent medical leave, they can require a note from her doctor supporting medical leave. They can also ask her to have her doctor sign off on a job description describing her work, physical requirements and work hours.
Also, part of a good drug policy is giving any employee an opportunity to come forward to a designated person and as for assistance in addressing an alcohol & drug problem. The employee would not be reprimanded or drug tested. However, are referred to either a company sponsored or not agency or facility for evaluation and treatment. Everything is kept confidential.
Now, what can YOU do? You can be open to the idea that this employee may have a problem and has become addicted. This doesn't give her the right to "get away with it" but the only thing you can do is offer to help. If she doesn't want it, then it's all you can do. It's not uncommon for a person who has a medical condition to get addicted to a pain killer. Percocet is usually only given for a few days but if a doctor prescribes it for longer, then an addiction can occur and a survival behavior kicks in and they do things they normally wouldn't do. Don't judge her on it. Her addiction, if that is what it is, can cause her to lose everything.


answers from Chicago on

Is HR a place you can turn to seek advice?



answers from Cleveland on

Usually the best way to get rid of someone is to document everything. But if your supervisor is unwilling to do this, I'm not sure what you can do. If she can't perform her job, she should be moved to a job within the company that better suits her or let go. But you have to document, notify her of performance issues and the impacts. It's a lot of work, and a lot of companies really don't do it well.



answers from Honolulu on

You know... she is addicted.
I actually feel bad for her.... because this drug is very highly addictive...even to the best of people and for honest medical problems.
Her Doctor, should have been monitoring her... while on it and probably not allow for any re-fills.... etc.

She is already addicted to it.
If a Doctor suspects addiction... I would think they are at an obligation... to advise the patient instead of keep supplying it to the person... thereby being an accessory... to the addict. Much like a street drug peddler.

You all can't stand it... because she is missing work and talks endlessly about her medical problems.

Can't your Employer... INSTEAD of treating it like a suspected drug-addiction... or being intoxicated at work... have HR talk to her... about mental health.... that they 'notice' she is 'depressed' etc, and that they can provide Counseling for her etc.
They can say... that her performance is affected... and advise some sort of Counseling for her... etc. that she seems depressed etc.

OR, if this woman is a 'danger' to others or per safety of others and in the workplace... then, that is ANOTHER tack... to take, with this "problem."

OR, the Employer can contact their Corporate Attorney... and ask what to do. Most Employers, do have, an Attorney... to refer to.

But she has already missed a lot of work... just based on that, can they just fire her??? But she uses her medical condition as an 'excuse' for her absences... so, that may not be just cause... for firing her nor legal.
So... they need to just base it on "poor" work performance etc. and maybe per complaints they get....
Hasn't the Employer.... DOCUMENTED all of this? Her visually obvious slurred-speech, nodding off at the desk.... and excessive absences???

I would worry... that due to her over-dosing... she could even just die.
Or she could die while being intoxicated and while driving...
That is reality.
And, no one helped her.

Is she a Mom, with kids?

all the best,



answers from Cincinnati on

Here are some suggestions:
Your boss may be handling this and just can't discuss it with you. However, if you feel that she is ignoring the situation, you can always take this to her boss.
Approach your co-worker and express your concerns. Tell her that you are concerned about her. Let her know what you are seeing and that you feel she could be a danger to herself or others. Suggest she talk to her doctor to see if she is on the right dosage or to maybe try a different medicine. DON'T ACCUSE HER, as you may not have all of the facts.
If working there is getting to be unbearable, you can always leave. I know it will be difficult to find a new job in this economy, but there is nothing that says you have to stay. I would make sure that they know why you are leaving.



answers from Anchorage on

If she is not doing her job your boss has grounds to fire her. Otherwise the boss needs to call her in and talk about her performance if it is really not up to par. As for having a medical issue, you can not fire someone for being sick, and who are you to say how much medicine is too much? Do you feel what she feels? My husband had surgery months ago, but it takes a really long time for bone to grow (he has a mesh plate in his head the bone must grow to fill in), and it is horribly painful every day. Don't judge anthers pain unless you have been there.



answers from Columbus on

The first thing that comes to mind is an HR department... Do you have one? I would go straight to HR if you do. If you don't, you should go to your bosses boss, and so on. If you're in a medical office, can you talk to the doctor in that office and express your concerns? What a crappy situation!


answers from Los Angeles on

Even if you take your concerns to someone else, if she has a prescription, it doesn't prove anything other then a Dr. legally gave them to her. You can't prove the frquencey of her taking them.
An employer also has to have a form signed about surprise drug testing in the pre-employment paperwork for them to be able to test (at least at my previous employers in the state of CA thats hwo it worked). Even if this co worker was tested..whose to say the drug test will filter the prescprition drug she is taking, and also if she has a prescription she's technicially not breaking the law.
At my previous employer's they had to follow strict guidelines before they could let someone go. So they couldn't simply just fire someone. There had to be numerous write-ups, repremands, and then finially corporate would have to review everything then give the word to let someone go. Sometimes it would take a year or longer to get approval, other times it was as quick as a day or two.
It's also a tricky situation because she has a known medical issue. If your employer were to let her go she might be the type to turn around a sue for unlawful termination due to her documented medical issue.
Honestly, your boss should be repremanding her for missing days. Or atleast setting forth a policy stating all employees must furnish Dr's notes for absences, then writing her up for when she can't.
In short your boss needs to start a paper trail if they haven't already. So they can prove she isn't completing her job duties. I know it's annoying, I have been in similiar situations, Good Luck!

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