Medical Marijuana in the Workplace
For decades, organisations have been able to test employees and prospective employees for the presence of controlled/prohibited drugs in their systems. Failing a drug test usually meant getting the pink slip, or being “disciplined”, officiously so.
For decades, organisations have been able to test employees and prospective employees for the presence of controlled/prohibited drugs in their systems. Failing a drug test usually meant getting the pink slip, or being disciplined.
The negative impacts of marijuana use have been well publicised. The sharp increase in marijuana-related fatalities in legalised states such as Washington and Colorado have spurred organisations like the American Automobile Association to oppose legalisation.
Employers Have a Duty to Accommodate
Employers are required to go through a full assessment with the employee who has the disability to determine possible workplace restrictions and modifications to ensure that person can work in a safe manner. They are responsible for ensuring their staff can still perform at work.
This means allowing the employee to return to the same position as before, with the possibility of some tasks being exchanged for others. If that isn’t possible, the employer should transfer that person to a position comparable in duties and wages, among other factors.
However, an employer’s duty does not go so far as to create an entirely new tailored position. There will be a mix of give and take.
For some employers, the obvious way to enforce a zero-tolerance policy toward marijuana use at the workplace is to conduct random drug testing. However, this is where it gets tricky. Unlike a breathalyzer test for alcohol, which yields precise results for impairment.
There is no definitive way for employers to determine an employee’s level of impairment when it comes to marijuana. The problem with routine tests for marijuana is that there are a lot of false positives and negatives because marijuana can take a long time to be metabolised out of a user’s system.
Balancing Health and Safety
This duty doesn’t let employees off the hook. They can’t use this medication as an excuse to be impaired at work. They’re not entitled to smoke it freely in the workplace and it doesn’t give them the right to unexcused absences.
This is an impairment drug, and both sides have an obligation to each other that allows everyone to work safely and effectively.
Safety-sensitive positions such as forklift drivers and truck drivers, will be scrutinised more significantly because impairment affects safety. The employer may need to revisit and modify their workplace policies.
Employers are taking every reasonable precaution to create a safe work environment, and employees have a duty to meet those safety measures.
In light of recent legalisation, there has been some review of policy and strategic thinking going on. Even if employers plan on maintaining their pre-legalisation stance on marijuana, they would still need to look back at their policies as they often prohibit the use of illegal drugs.
Employers must also decide on how strong a position do they want to take as a company. If you’re a safety-sensitive or federal contractor, you may not have a choice. However, for the other employers, mandatory drug testing sends out a clear signal across the board.
For those taking a more liberal approach, may want to communicate to workers that even though it’s legal to recreationally use marijuana. This means that being under influence at work is still a no-go.