Monthly Archives: April 2016

BREAKING BAD: FIVE SUBSTANCES THAT CAN RUIN YOUR BODY AND WORKPLACE

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall

Jefferson Airplane, “White Rabbit”

What if you could instantly improve your health or that of your employees by doing nothing?  I have seen it done — over and over.

The principle is simple:   Success is equal parts engaging in positive behaviors and, just as important, avoiding negative behaviors.

This article focuses on consciously avoiding or at least limiting certain negative behaviors.  Avoiding or controlling these five things — food choices, pills, alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco — will transform your body, brain, and workplace instantly.

FIRST THINGS FIRST:  WHO ARE YOU — AN ABSTAINER OR A MODERATOR?

Before understanding your unique relationship with the five substances discussed below, it is important to understand who you are.

Gretchen Rubin, author of New York Times bestsellers Better Than Before, The Happiness Project and Happier at Homebelieves there are two types of people:  moderators and abstainers.

You’re a moderator if you…
– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something

You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits

Play to your strength.  If you are a moderator, enjoy some of the substances discussed below from time to time.  However, if you decide that you are an abstainer, consider steering clear of starting something you may not be able to stop.  For me, one donut usually equals three donuts.  Know what I mean?

BREAKING BAD:  WHAT PROCESSED FOOD AND CRACK HAVE IN COMMON

Have you ever had a friend or loved one struggle with sugar cravings?  In his article, “Sugar Addiction:  Is it Real?”, Dr. Phil Maffetone poses important questions to ask:

  • Why is it so difficult for so many people to even consider giving up sugar and sugar-containing foods, and refined carbohydrates?
  • Do you observe this in others?
  • Do you react to eating sugary foods by getting sleepy, moody, or losing concentration?
  • When you avoid sugar or don’t eat it, do you experience cravings or uneasiness with strong desires to eat more?
  • Do you tend to eat sugary foods even though you know you shouldn’t, and feel you should better control yourself?

Dr. Maffetone goes on to note that these questions about addiction are similar to indications of drug addiction, and the reason researchers and clinicians see an overlap between sweets and drugs.  The cycle is perpetuated with the feeling of withdrawal when the drug, or sugar, is not available, followed by the urge to abuse the drug (sugar) again.

He concludes with a striking observation:  “Sugar may also be a primary issue in those with other “secondary” addictions.  In this case, treating the sugar problem—getting a person off the white stuff—might be the first step in eliminating other substances such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or so-called harder drugs like heroin and cocaine.”

So, if personal health is your objective, or if you desire healthier employees and reduced healthcare and workers compensation costs, think twice this Friday about bringing in that baker’s dozen of donuts, bagels, or other junk food.  Or, start improving by switching to every other Friday (if you are a moderator).

Bottom line:  get off the sugar crack, educate yourself about the downside of processed food, and you will be rewarded almost immediately.

TOBACCO

I know the addictive nature of tobacco.  I started “chewing” Copenhagen back in my baseball playing days and the habit followed me for years.

It is easy to say “stop using tobacco, it’s bad for you.”  Everyone knows this obvious truth.  Instead, follow the lead of companies like Bourque Law Firm client Able Engineering and institute a policy that bans the use of this deadly substance.  When first enacted, Able gave workers six months to quit smoking and using tobacco products.  Coupled with its wellness program, Able’s policy has been a huge success:  Since 2010 it has seen a 66% reduction in healthcare spend for employees.

By implementing a non-tobacco policy, your company will instantly have healthier, more productive employees.  Even better, you will be a major catalyst in saving lives and sparing workers from the devastation of lung cancer and the parade of other horribles that accompanies smoking.  Talk about a win-win.

PILLS

Sales of prescription pain relievers in 2010 were four times those in 1999; and the substance use disorder treatment admission rate in 2009 was six times the 1999 rate.

In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills.  Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers. As a consequence, the rate of heroin overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2013.

America, we have a problem.  And to believe it is not having adverse effects on your workplace is naïve.  Instead of sitting back and suffering the obvious and hidden effects of prescription drug abuse:

  • Implement an effective prescription drug use policy within your overall drug and alcohol policy  [see “Draft Policy” below for a sample policy]
  • Educate employees and encourage them to come forward and address any issues
  • Train supervisors and management  on, among other things, your workplace policy for prescription drug use and understanding potential signs of impairment
  • Have a solid employee assistance program

ALCOHOL

Hopefully you will never find yourself in a room with four lawyers.  But if you do, on average one of the four, if they are males, is an alcoholic.

Various factors drive lawyers, and Americans, to drink.  As for the latter, we are drinking ourselves to death at record rates:  In 2014, deaths from alcohol-induced causes increased 37 percent from 2002.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself.  Cultivate good habits, evaluate your bad habits, and check-in with friends and discuss how they and you are coping with life’s stresses and substances.  Do not ignore the obvious.  Equally so,  do not permit yourself to be ignorant of the less obvious markers of alcohol abuse.

MARIJUANA

Times have changed.  Marijuana is suddenly “OK” in many circles.  Near my kids’ school, there is a massive “Dr. Marijuana” sign that we pass daily on the ride in.

In Arizona, an employer can be sued for firing an employee who tests positive for marijuana if the employee has a medical marijuana card.

Let us not fool ourselves.  Like pills and alcohol, marijuana is a serious drug.  Whether it becomes fully legalized in Arizona or elsewhere, it should be treated as such.

CONCLUSION

Many people take better care of their cars than of their bodies.  None of us is perfect.  However, we can all improve each day by (1) understanding the effect of the substances we put in our mouths and (2) making better choices given this knowledge.  I wish you all success on your personal journey.

Art Bourque has guided businesses and individuals for 25 years on implementing substance abuse and wellness policies, training supervisors and employees, and on alcohol and drug issues, including prevention and testing.  Contact Mr. Bourque with any questions concerning this article.

Here is Mr. Bourque’s favorite ever skit on drugs, by the great George Carlin — enjoy:

DRAFT DRUG PRESCRIPTION POLICY

It is a violation of our Drug-Free Workplace Policy to use, possess, sell, trade, and/or offer for sale alcohol, illegal drugs, or intoxicants. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are not prohibited when taken in standard dosage and/or according to a physician’s prescription. Any employee taking prescribed or over-the-counter medications will be responsible for consulting the prescribing physician and/or pharmacist to ascertain whether the medication may interfere with the safe performance of his/her job. If the use of a medication could compromise the safety of the employee, fellow employees, or the public, it is the employee’s responsibility to use appropriate personnel procedures (e.g., call in sick, use leave, request change of duty, notify supervisor, notify company doctor) to avoid unsafe workplace practices. The illegal or unauthorized use of prescription drugs is prohibited. It is a violation of our drug-free workplace policy to intentionally misuse and/or abuse prescription medications. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken if job performance deteriorates and/or incidents occur.

 

BREAKING NEWS: TOM BRADY SACKED AGAIN — FOUR GAME SUSPENSION REINSTATED

This morning the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four game suspension for his involvement in “deflate gate” — deflating footballs for an NFL game.  Here is the Court’s decision.

The Court’s decision reflects the general enforceability of arbitration agreements and the enormous power of arbitrators to decide parties’ disputes.

HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED

For a brief refresher, here is how the drama began:

On January 18, 2015, the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts played in the American Football Conference Championship Game at the Patriots’ home stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts to determine which team would advance to Super Bowl XLIX.  During the second quarter, Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a pass thrown by Brady and took the ball to the sideline, suspecting it might be inflated below the allowed minimum pressure of 12.5 pounds per square inch.  After confirming that the ball was underinflated, Colts personnel informed League officials, who decided to test all of the game balls at halftime.  Eleven other Patriots balls and four Colts balls were tested using two air gauges, one of which had been used before the game to ensure that the balls were inflated within the permissible range of 12.5 to 13.5 psi.  While each of the four Colts balls tested within the permissible range on at least one of the gauges, all eleven of the Patriots balls measured below 12.5 psi on both.

HR Law Insider has written here, here, and here, about what happened next in the deflate gate scandal.  In short, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Brady for four games, but that suspension was overturned after Brady sued the NFL in federal court.  That decision has now been reversed.

THE APPEALS COURT DECISION

In deciding against Brady, the Court of Appeals shot-down each of his arguments.  Detailing each argument in this article is impractical, but here is an example of how Brady’s conduct worked against him:

“At oral argument, the NFL Players’ Association further contended that the Commissioner was improperly punishing Brady for destroying his cell phone because he was required to institute a new disciplinary action (so that Brady could then appeal any determination that he had destroyed his cell phone). This argument fails because, as set forth in the original disciplinary letter, Brady was punished for failing to cooperate, and it is clear from the Commissioner’s decision that Brady’s cell phone destruction was part and parcel of the broader claim that he had failed to cooperate.”

The Court of Appeals decision was not without strongly worded dissents within the multi-member appellate panel.  The dissenters’ theme — sure to be adopted by Patriot’s fans — is that the NFL was unfair to Brady.  As noted by one dissenter:

“[T]he Commissioner’s murky explanation of Brady’s discipline undercuts the protections for which the NFLPA bargained on Brady’s, and others’, behalf.  It is ironic that a process designed to ensure fairness to all players has been used unfairly against one player.”

WHERE WE GO FROM HERE

The next stop for the deflate gate saga is the United States Supreme Court.  Should the highest court in the land decide to take the case, we may well learn which justices understand the game that has virtually become a national obsession; and we may also learn if there are any Patriots fans on the bench.

For all you trivia buffs, Byron Raymond “Whizzer” White (1917 – 2002) won fame both as a football halfback and as a Supreme Court Judge.  Born and raised in Colorado, White played in the NFL for three seasons.

CONCLUSION

If you are a business or organization that does not want a judge or jury to decide your dispute, embed an arbitration provision in your contract(s).  Understand, however, arbitration agreements must be carefully drafted to be enforceable.  Contact counsel to understand the pros and cons of arbitration agreements.

Art Bourque has guided businesses and individuals for 25 years on arbitration agreements, employment law, and commercial arbitration.  Contact Mr. Bourque with any questions concerning this article.