Thursday, September 15, 2011

DOT Training and Reasonable Suspicion Tip 2: “It’s mouthwash.”

Here is another tip for you to consider in your DOT Training for Supervisors.
This statement can put you in a tough spot because it seems plausible enough to introduce doubt. Don’t let this sway you from testing your employee.

If you can smell alcohol on your employee’s breath, then you can document it to support a test for reasonable suspicion. You’re also likely to have other supporting evidence like slurred speech, erratic behavior, trouble walking, etc. If your employee has been at work for awhile, you can ask him/her to show you the mouthwash, but don’t require it.

You’re focused on smell. It doesn’t make any difference whether the employee used mouthwash or not. Ethyl alcohol-based beverages and their metabolization have a common smell. The supervisor does not have to describe the smell of alcohol. “I smelled alcohol” is good enough. Document your observations and administer a test as quickly as reasonably possible.

Be careful not to accuse or rush to judgment. It might be mouthwash, or maybe not. Avoid getting into arguments with your employee. Your goal should be to keep your employee calm and allow your testing to determine whether there’s a significant amount of alcohol in his/her system. You don’t have to prove anything right now other than reasonable suspicion. Explain to your employee that the best way to clear up any confusion is take a required test.

Keep in mind that your employee may be telling you the truth and still be intoxicated. Some alcoholics in the later stages of the disease have consumed mouthwash in quantities large enough to induce intoxication—some mouthwashes are 50 proof or more. Alcohol rehabilitation facilities ban mouthwash based on their potential for abuse.