Yesterday we were telling you how many New Jersey companies are getting legal advice about how they should handle employees getting treatment for substance abuse — because those employees may have disabilities and qualify for special accommodations.

According to Michele Siekerka, the president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, the prescription drug and heroin epidemic in New Jersey has impacted the business community in many other ways as well.

“I think companies are paying much more attention to employees in the workplace, and how they may become a victim of that situation,” she said.

Siekerka said one very big challenge for companies in the Garden State is dealing with “folks that have, for medical purposes, the need to take drugs that may then impact their ability to perform properly in the workplace.”

She said “oftentimes what will happen is companies, when they’re trying to accommodate one employee, it could absolutely affect the rest of the workforce, and that is something that has to be taken into consideration.”

While state law doesn’t specify companies must provide drug treatment options for their workers struggling with such problems, she said the “best practice is absolutely to be aligned with an employee assistance program, and have the opportunity to send employees through an employee assistance program if a company feels an employee may be helped by that.”

“I think there’s a heightened awareness today for the issue of prescription drugs and how people follow from prescription drugs to addiction," she said. "I think companies are very sensitive to that issue.”

Siekerka said whatever particular situation may exist, it’s very important for New Jersey companies to always have drug policies in place that are clear.

“It’s so employees understand what the rules are when it comes to showing up to work under the influence of any kind,” she said.

She said many New Jersey companies now have drug testing policies for recruitment and hiring, as well as in the event an incident does occur on site.

“It wouldn’t be uncommon that if someone had an accident on site that they would be sent for a drug test to validate that accident really happened by chance, as opposed to someone being under the influence," she said.

She added some firms will have a minimum amount of testing, while others may opt for more frequent testing protocols.

“This is where policies are so important and that policies are clear around the circumstances under which an employer can actually test an employee,” she said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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