University Administrative Policies


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UNM Policy Office

MSC05 3357
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

Physical Location:
Scholes Hall
114 A and B

Phone: (505) 277-2069

Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual - Policy 3270: Suspected Employee Impairment at Work

Date Originally Issued: 04-10-1997
Revised: 01-01-2012

Authorized by RPM 6.1 ("Performance Management")
Process Owner:  Vice President for Human Resources 

1. General

This policy describes the procedures to follow when dealing with an employee who appears to be impaired while at work and available resources for the employee. There may be other more specific policies and regulations that apply to certain employees, such as those in areas requiring licensure (i.e., transportation and patient care). This policy is not intended to supersede such policies and/or regulations.  Impairment may be due to the use of alcohol or other substances/drugs (legal or illegal).   Impairment could also be due to medical and/or psychological conditions.  See UAP 3110 (“Reasonable Accommodation for Employees, Job Applicants, and Participants with Disabilities"). The University encourages employees to seek appropriate help following an incident of suspected impairment. The University provides resources, including the University Counseling, Assistance, and Referral Service (CARS), to resolve potential problems before such occurrences take place. See Impaired Performance Incident Checklist.  Safety is the primary objective of this policy. An employee who is impaired may not remain at his or her work site because of the increased risk for accidents and dangerous or inappropriate behavior. For the safety of the impaired employee and others at the University, it is important that the impaired employee leave the work site immediately in a safe and orderly manner. 

2. Procedures Based on Perceived Level of Impairment

If the employee appears violent, verbally abusive, or otherwise threatening, the manager should call 911 immediately and request University police.  In this case, the supervisor should make reasonable efforts to protect himself/herself and others.

If the employee appears to be having a medical emergency or requests medical assistance, the supervisor should call 911 immediately and request an ambulance to transport the employee to the emergency room. The supervisor should have someone stay with the employee until medical/emergency personnel arrive.  If the employee has been transported by either of these methods, the supervisor should contact the employee the next day to discuss next steps (see Sections 4. and 5. herein) and should  mail the employee a copy of the Impaired Performance Incident Checklist.  See Section 2.1. herein.

2.1. Determining and Reporting Impairment

A supervisor may determine reasonable suspicion that an employee is impaired by observing the employee's behavior, appearance, and/or odor. See Section 2.2 herein and the Impaired Performance Incident Checklist for steps to take when an employee is determined to be impaired. Whenever possible, a supervisor should have another individual present when he or she talks to the employee in order to confirm the observations. Ideally, this second person should be a supervisor or manager. The individual selected must understand that all aspects of the incident are confidential. If no one is available, it is important for the supervisor to take action based on his or her observations.  The objective indicators made by the supervisor should be clearly documented on the Impaired Performance Incident Checklist and on the Authorization to Use or Disclose Health Information Form.  The employee should be given a copy of the Impaired Performance Incident Checklist before leaving the workplace in non-emergency cases.

An employee may report suspected impairment of a co-worker to the supervisor. If the employee suspects impairment of his or her supervisor, the employee should advise the next level manager. An employee reporting suspected impairment is protected from retaliation in accordance with UAP 2200 (“Reporting Suspected Misconduct and Whistleblower Protection from Retaliation”).

2.2. Non-Emergency Situations

If police or emergency personnel area not warranted, the supervisor should refer to the Impaired Performance Incident Checklist and should tell the employee that he or she believes the employee is impaired.  The supervisor should also tell the employee he or she:

  • Must leave the work site for his or her safety and the safety of others.
  • Is being placed on Administrative Leave with Pay for the balance of the workday due to suspected impairment.
  • May choose to provide the supervisor a name and phone number of an individual who could provide him or her a ride, or may choose to take a taxi ride home reimbursed by the department. (The supervisor should inform an employee who refuses to accept alternative transportation that the supervisor is required to call the police if the employee chooses to drive any vehicle.)
  • May protest a determination of impairment due to alcohol or substances/drugs (legal or illegal) by being drug and alcohol tested at the University designated laboratory (see Section 3.).
  • Must go to Employee and Occupational Health Services (EOHS) the following day and provide it with a completed Authorization to Use or Disclose Health Information Form from his or her licensed medical and/or mental health provider certifying that the employee is physically and emotionally able to return to work before he/she will be released to work by EOHS.  The supervisor should complete the first section of this form.  If EOHS determines it cannot provide a medical release, the employee must follow departmental call-in procedures until the employee can obtain the EOHS release. The employee can contact EOHS with any further questions regarding the process.
  • Will need to meet with the supervisor upon his or her release to return to work to discuss the situation further.
  • May call CARS for assistance.
  • Will have to acknowledge receipt of the Impaired Performance Incident Checklist by signing the document.

The supervisor should call Human Resources as soon as possible to advise it of the situation.  

3. Employee Protests Impairment Determination 

If the supervisor determines the employee may be impaired due to alcohol or due to other substances/drugs (legal or illegal), the supervisor should tell the employee that he or she may protest the determination by taking a drug and alcohol urine test at the University designated laboratory.

If the employee elects to take a test for alcohol and other legal/illegal substances, the employee may be transported by taxi to the University designated laboratory.  In this case, the department will pay for the transportation to the laboratory.  It is the employee’s responsibility to arrange for transportation home from the lab but the employee must not drive.

The supervisor should contact Human Resources who will provide the authorization form for testing and will confirm the location of the nearest authorized testing facility.  The employee must be sent for testing within two (2) hours of the determination of impairment.  The employee must immediately proceed to the lab for testing.  If the testing is delayed, the employee must provide written evidence regarding the causation of the delay in order for it to be considered.  No negative test conducted after eight (8) hours of the initial determination will be considered.  If the employee is transported to an emergency room and is tested, the employee may elect to make the results available to EOHS and, if conducted within eight (8) hours of the initial determination, will be considered.  If the employee is transported to an emergency room and is tested, the employee may elect to make the results available to EOHS and, if conducted with eight (8) hours of the designation of impairment, such tests will be treated as the equivalent of a drug or alcohol test described in the previous paragraph.  If the impairment may be due to medication, the employee should also consult his or her own medical and/or mental health provider.  With the employee’s permission, results of such an evaluation may be provided to EOHS and will be considered in determining any further action.

If the employee goes to the University designated laboratory and the employee has a validated positive result, the employee is responsible for the cost of the lab fee.  If the evaluation certifies the employee is not impaired due to alcohol or drugs, the employee’s department is responsible for the cost of the lab fee.

4. Employee's Return To Work

The employee must report to EOHS after seeing his or her medical provider on the following day. The employee will be allowed to return to work only after providing EOHS with a fully completed Return to Work Clearance Form a licensed medical and/or mental health provider certifying that he/she is physically and emotionally able to return to work. At the employee’s request, EOHS may assist the employee by attempting to facilitate the employee’s effort to obtain the appropriate assessment by the employee’s health care provider. If the employee is not released to return to work on the next scheduled workday, he or she is required to call in as provided for in the UAP 3410 (“Sick Leave") and departmental procedures. If the supervisor does not hear from the employee on the next scheduled work day, the supervisor should attempt to call the employee to inform him or her of his or her responsibilities.  If the employee is absent for three (3) consecutive work days without the supervisor’s permission, the employee may be considered to have resigned in accordance with UAP 3225 (“Separation of Employment").

In cases where EOHS determines the employee or the University may be at significant risk, EOHS will instruct the employee’s supervisor to continue the employee on leave for a designated period of time to allow time for evaluation of the situation. Such leave will be handled in accordance with the UAP 3410 (“Sick Leave").  During this time EOHS will review the situation to determine when the employee is able to return to work. Recommendations made by CARS or other licensed health professionals to extend leave should be referred to EOHS for a determination.

5. Follow-up Action

The employee is encouraged to contact CARS as soon as possible to discuss ways to help the employee. The supervisor may contact the Division of Human Resources on any related employment/policy issues.

Once released, the supervisor or designee should meet with the employee upon his/her return to work to discuss the possible consequences and expectations. The supervisor will inform the employee that during the review of his/her case, the University expects the impaired behavior will cease in the workplace and that the employee will seek assistance to prevent a recurrence. The CARS program does not alter or supersede the University’s employment policies or disciplinary processes. 

5.1. Disciplinary Action

Depending on the circumstances and the causation of the suspected impairment, the employee may or may not be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with applicable University policies.  

6. Related Links

Impaired Performance Incident Checklist 

UNM Drug Free Campus Statement

To be provided to an employee at the same time:

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