Policies & Contracts

604 - Substance Abuse

Subject: Substance Abuse

Section: U604

Date: January, 2020


The University is committed to maintaining a safe and healthful environment for members of the University community by promoting a drug-free environment as well as one free of the effects of drug and alcohol abuse.  This policy thus prohibits the unlawful manufacture, possession, use, distribution, sale or purchase of non-prescribed controlled substances and intoxicants in the University workplace and sets forth appropriate actions to take in the event that an employee exhibits behavior consistent with alcohol or drug use in the workplace. The University adheres to applicable law, including the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988 and the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989. This policy implements the requirements for a drug-free workplace as required by federal law. Smoking is also prohibited in all University buildings and is addressed separately in Policy 603.


The University recognizes alcohol and drug abuse as potential health, safety, and security problems. The University expects all employees to assist in maintaining a work environment free from the effects of alcohol, drugs (including marijuana), or other intoxicating substances and further encourages any employee who may suffer from an addiction or substance abuse disorder to seek professional care and treatment. Compliance with this substance abuse policy is a condition of employment, and violations of this policy will result in serious reprimand, up to and including termination.


  1. The University prohibits employees from the manufacture, possession, use, distribution, sale or purchase of non-prescribed controlled substances and intoxicants while on University premises or working off-site, and from working under the influence of alcohol, drugs (including marijuana), or other intoxicating substances. The only exception to this prohibition is moderate consumption and/or possession of alcohol by legally aged employees at University approved functions (e.g., receptions, parties).
  2. Any employee who violates any aspect of this substance abuse policy, who intentionally abuses prescription drugs, who tampers with the substance testing process, or who tests positive to a drug or alcohol test will be seriously reprimanded, up to and including discharge.
  3. Employees may not report to work if impaired by drugs or alcohol.  If an employee is or may be impaired because of taking medication according to a doctor's prescription, (s)he is expected to discuss it with his/her supervisor before commencing work that day. If the University has a reasonable basis to verify prescription information with the treating physician, the employee will be expected to authorize release of such information.
  4. As required by federal law, any employee who is convicted of any violation of any criminal drug statute (including misdemeanors) for a violation occurring on University property or during working time shall notify Human Resources (HR) within five (5) days of the date of conviction. A conviction includes any plea or finding of guilty, any plea of "nolo contendere" and/or imposition of a fine, jail sentence or other penalty. Pursuant to federal law, if the convicted employee is working on a project funded through a federal contract or grant, the University is required to notify the relevant federal contracting or granting agency within ten (10) days of receiving such notice of conviction.
  5. When in the judgment of a supervisor, there is reasonable suspicion that an employee (i) is engaged in the unauthorized use or possession of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances or (ii) is impaired in the workplace due to the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances, the supervisor must immediately notify the HR Representative.  In considering whether an employee is impaired in the workplace, the HR representative will assess and document whether there is a good faith belief an employee manifests specific (i) scents associated with alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances and/or (ii) articulable symptoms while working that decrease or lessen the employee’s performance of the duties or tasks of the employee’s role, including:
    1. Speech;
    2. Physical dexterity;
    3. Agility:
    4. Coordination:
    5. Demeanor:
    6. Irrational or unusual behavior;
    7. Negligence or carelessness in operating equipment or machinery;
    8. Disregard for the safety of the employee or others;
    9. Involvement in any accident that results in serious damage to equipment or property;
    10. Disruption of a production or manufacturing process; and/or
    11. Carelessness that results in any injury to the employee or others.
  6. The HR representative will communicate their assessment to Employee and Labor Relations and accompany the employee to the Office of Occupational Medicine in the University of Chicago Medical Center, where the employee will undergo drug or alcohol testing.  If it is outside of Occupational Medicine’s business hours, the HR representative will accompany the employee to the emergency room for drug or alcohol testing.  Refusal by an employee to take a reasonable suspicion test as instructed or failure to comply with all necessary elements of the testing program may result in the employee being disciplined up to and including discharge.
  7. Employees who dispute the results of a drug or alcohol test have the right to have the initial sample independently re-tested by a US Department of Health and Human Services-certified laboratory of their choice, at their own expense, within five (5) working days of when they were notified of the test results.
  8. The legalization of marijuana under state law does not change the University’s policy or its obligations under federal law as a federal contractor and recipient of federal funds.  The manufacture, possession, use, distribution, sale or purchase of marijuana is prohibited on University premises and constitutes a violation of this policy.  Working under the influence of marijuana is likewise prohibited and violates this policy.
  9. Any employee who feels (s)he may have a substance abuse problem is urged to contact his/her supervisor or a representative of HR Employee and Labor Relations. The employee is also urged to seek the services of the Employee Assistance Program. Such an employee will not be disciplined or retaliated against for such contact. The University is interested in a safe workplace, and a healthy and productive workforce, not in punishing employees who come for help.

    An employee who requests treatment or a leave of absence for treatment will not be disciplined for making such a request. An employee may not, however, escape discipline by first requesting such treatment or leave after being selected for testing or violating the University's policies and rules. Requests for such treatment will be kept confidential in accordance with federal and state law

    The employee must begin and complete satisfactorily an approved treatment program and the ongoing requirements of the program, and consent in writing to the disclosure by the program of its recommendations, any dangers it perceives in connection with the employee's continued performance of his/her job, and whether the employee is complying with, and has successfully completed the program and the ongoing requirements of the program. The employee will also submit to further testing as required by the University.
  10. The University retains full and final discretion on whether, when, and under what conditions an employee may remain employed or be re-employed after an instance where an employee has violated this substance abuse policy.

Questions regarding this policy should be directed to HR Employee and Labor Relations.

Employees represented by a bargaining unit may be governed by the appropriate bargaining unit agreement.