Lynne Curry: Employee suspects co-worker smokes pot

Lynne Curry

Q. I work patient care in a large medical facility. Recently, a female friend invited me over to her house for drinks. When I was there, I smelled pot.

I used the bathroom, and the smell of pot was overwhelming. This made me so uncomfortable. I texted my husband and asked him to call so I could say I had to go home for an emergency.

The next day, I visited our practice manager and told her what was going on. She asked if I saw my co-worker smoking grass. I said no, and she said unless I caught my co-worker smoking, I was making an assumption. She said "the smoker could be anyone, maybe one of her kids."

I said "my co-worker's a single woman, is in between guy friends and doesn't have kids and so it had to be my co-worker smoking dope." She told me she wasn't going to intervene, that she thought I probably had a personality clash with my co-worker.

What do I do now? What if something happens to a patient because my co-worker was stoned?

A. You've made a series of assumptions.

You assume your co-worker smokes dope and that she arrives at work under the influence. You also assume your practice manager can take action based on your story and did nothing after you left her office.

You may be right, that your practice manager did nothing, fearing she might become a bit player in a co-worker personality conflict or guilty of wandering uninvited into an employee's private life.

Hopefully, your practice manager listened to what you told as she has the means and a strong reason to act on your story. According to labor and employment attorney Keith Watts, "If your clinic has a drug and alcohol policy with a 'reasonable suspicion' standard, your practice manager could arrange a drug test based on your story."

Watts adds that your practice manager exercised reasonable caution when she considered whether you had a personal reason for "ratting out" your co-worker and yet needs to take the next step and fairly investigate your allegation.

"If something happened to a patient because the co-worker was stoned on the job," says Watts, "the patient's lawyer might ferret out your story during the lawsuit discovery process. If the plaintiff's attorney can show your clinic had notice of the potential problem and did nothing, they may be able to successfully argue 'negligent retention.'

"That may compel a jury, after hearing that the clinic purposely chose not investigate or do anything and continued to employ an alleged 'stoner,' to find in favor of the patient because they knowingly placed patients in harm's way."

Q. I admit I shot my mouth off. My supervisor pushed my buttons, and I let him have it. I didn't, however, say anything others haven't said and didn't use any language he hasn't used himself.

I got written up. This torques me because others violate safety rules and damage company property and get talked to, but not written up. I don't want this in my personnel file. How do I get it taken out?

A. Allow two to three weeks for your supervisor and the situation to cool down and let your supervisor know you regret what you said. Don't make excuses and don't point the finger at him or others, as in "you've used similar words" or "why did my co-worker get away with what he did when I got written up?"

Once he's absorbed your sincere apology, say, "This won't happen again. Because it won't recur, could you agree to remove the reprimand from my file in three months?" He may agree.

Dr. Lynne Curry is a management and employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at You can follow Lynne on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or through


Lynne Curry