This firm’s response to a staffer who fed fellow bus drivers pot brownies highlights an important lesson on writing and enforcing your disciplinary policies.

The “fun” began when 57-year-old Ku’uipoaloha Lawler brought what he called “double-fudge Betty Crocker honey brownies” to work for the staff at the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.

Mark Hall, one of Lawler’s co-workers, and two more staffers each ate some of the brownies, then went on their daily routes.

It didn’t take long for the drivers to begin feeling the effects of the drugs, though. They quickly pulled over and called for replacements. That was a good move, noted Deanne Katz on FindLaw, because the drivers could have been cited for a DUI had they been pulled over.

Predictably, Lawler’s superiors at the MTS weren’t rolling on the floor laughing when they found out what happened. Not only was Lawler fired, but the San Diego Police Department has also begun investigating the incident as a possible poisoning — a felony that The San Diego Union-Tribune notes carries a punishment of up to five years in prison.

It doesn’t end there

Surprisingly, things didn’t end up much better for Hall or the two other bus drivers who ate the laced brownies.

The three drivers were placed on paid leave following the incident, and were told they had to undergo substance abuse counseling before they could come back to work in a position that wasn’t driving a bus.

One driver accepted, but the other two refused. Hall told the Union Tribune, “I was not hired to sweep floors or pass out papers.”

Finally, a month after the incident, the Federal Transit Administration waived safety regs and permitted the bus drivers to return to work.

What’s the takeaway?

So what can HR pros learn from the incident?

The San Diego Metropolitan System surely deserves kudos for responding to the incident decisively.

But the incident took a turn for the worse when the organization’s discipline system broke down. MTS acknowledged that the three bus drivers were innocent victims, yet two of them still ended up on unpaid leave for nearly a month before being reinstated.

The takeaway: Don’t cut off your nose despite your face when writing and revising your discipline policies and procedures.

You may have a zero tolerance policy for staffers driving under the influence, for example.

But there needs to be some wiggle room in case incidents like this occur, as rare as they may be.

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