I have a coworker who comes back from lunch high frequently. I know for a fact this is the case, because he has outright said that he got high during lunch. While I am in a state where it is illegal, it basically has the same penalty as a parking ticket. However, it certainly impairs my coworker, slowing down their ability to work.

How do I handle this? Should I talk to them, or HR, or management?

  • 3
    Do you know for a fact this person is high? Do you have proof(besides their altered mental state)? It's a pretty serious accusation to make if you don't know 100% for a fact that they've been using drugs!
    – New-To-IT
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 18:00
  • 84
    Does them saying "Sorry man, I got high during lunch, can you run that by me again?" count as confirmation?
    – user49733
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 18:02
  • 8
    see also: What can I do about a coworker who smokes pot while on the job?
    – gnat
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 19:20
  • 11
    @JeffQuick No, not really. He could be taking a prescription pain killer, or some other medication that has a similar affect.
    – Cypher
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 22:44
  • 5
    @Cypher: if the person says they're high and that this is impeding their work, it's fairly reasonable to proceed on the basis that they're high and that this is impeding their work. Whether they're high on prescription pain killers or something else, they're still claiming to be high. So it is confirmation. Of course the questioner would have to use their own judgement whether they think the person might be joking or lying (strange lie, but still). Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 12:09

4 Answers 4


Talking with a co-worker who feels it appropriate to use mind-altering substances at work will, most likely, result in being ignored (at best), and, when the conversation has no impact and you take it up the chain, they will know exactly who took issue with their behavior.

Unless I wasn't confident that my manager would handle the situation, I would discuss it with them first, and if it continues, talk with HR. Then I would choose one of two paths. If the behavior did not create a safety issue and simply impacted the individual's personal performance, I would mind my own business and, if they were leaving the premises driving a vehicle under the influence, potentially report it to law enforcement when I witness it off company property (many companies require that you go through them before reporting something to law-enforcement, legal or not). Aside from that, if they do a poor job that doesn't impact me, it is not much of my concern.

If you do feel it creates a safety issue (the co-worker is driving equipment or operating dangerous tools or machinery), then I would report it immediately, and if the company fails to act on the information, would go as far as reporting it to OSHA (or your country's counterpart). Most occupational safety offices have laws in place that protect workers who report unsafe working condition, and I think it would be at least arguable that knowingly allowing impaired employees to operate dangerous equipment creates unsafe working conditions.

  • 1
    While I mostly agree with this answer, I would report the issue even if it only seemed to impact their performance. If you owned the company and were paying their salary out of your own pocket, would you want someone to tell you? At best, this person is wasting company money if their performance is affected. At worst, they are a lawsuit or accident waiting to happen.
    – Kevin H
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 21:19
  • 10
    But the thing is, you don't own it. Plus, maybe they already know and don't mind about it.
    – dyesdyes
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 7:37
  • 1
    @Raystafarian: Not necessarily, depends on applicable laws.
    – sleske
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 9:44
  • 5
    @Caffeine is a mind altering substance. If the manager doesn't notice and it does no harm who cares. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 13:34
  • 3
    @KevinH snitches get stitches. it's permissible to not squeeze employees for every ounce of productivity, and it's not impossible they're doing this to ease some anxiety or allow them to focus after being worn down in the morning. unless someone is in actual danger or it's impacting your ability to do your own job, and profits and general productivity aren't people, it's always best to remain in solidarity with your coworkers even when you don't agree with their decisions
    – Anna
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 23:38

I'm presuming that this is a problem for you because you are unable to complete your tasks because your colleague is unreliable. In that case you should report only the business impact "I was expecting MJ to complete the setup by 2 but it wasn't done until 4:20"

There is no need for you to speculate on the cause of your colleague's poor performance. Let her manager and HR sort that out.

Of course, if there's a safety issue, you have to report that right away to prevent injury or property damage.

  • 16
    Did you use "MJ" as an example person on purpose?
    – DrewJordan
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 20:58
  • 7
    The last edit should make it all perfectly clear. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 6:43

If he is that open about it, chances are management already knows about it and is giving him enough rope to hang himself or doesn't care.

I see no need for you to get involved unless there is a safety issue. Ask yourself what you would achieve by doing so apart from making an enemy and making your other coworkers reluctant to say anything to you.

I once worked with a graphics guy who did his best work stoned.

  • 2
    I feel this is more of a comment than an answer. But thanks.
    – user49733
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 15:47
  • 1
    Actually I think this is the best answer. The co-worker only has two legitimate interests: (a) Their own work is affected by the intoxicated person’s poor performance. (b) The safety of person or property is at risk by the person being under the influence (which drugs, legal or illegal, is irrelevant). Either of these two situations should be reported, focusing on known facts: “My work is impacted when Joe has failed to do his job in these instances” or “I need to alert you that Joe appears unable to safely operate the forklift”. Otherwise, sobriety is a supervisor’s concern not a co-worker’s. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 0:05

I don't think it's your job/place to confront this person. I would sit down with your manager and inform him of this person's behavior.

Him and the HR department will take it from there.

You must log in to answer this question.