Streetsmart insurance Blog
When she interviewed for a job that required a drug test, she informed her would-be supervisor of her condition and prescription. The supervisor assured her that this would not be a problem, and she got the job
But, after her first day of work, a representative of her employer's human resources department called her at home and fired her for failing the drug test.
She sued the company for discrimination, and in July 2017 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that a lower court was mistaken when it threw out her complaint.
For decades, employers have tried to keep their workplaces drug-free, relying on federal laws against possession of marijuana. However, in recent years more than half the states have legalized the drug for medical purposes, and several have legalized its recreational use.
This split between federal and state laws has left many employers in a quandary: How to balance their interests against those of employees who wish to use a product that is legal under state law.
Employers have responsibilities to maintain safe workplaces, and many state laws recognize that fact.
Massachusetts law specifically exempts employers from having to permit or accommodate marijuana consumption in the workplace, and it affirms their rights to restrict its use in workplaces.
Employers in all states still have the right to test their employees for drug use and take disciplinary action they feel is warranted.
However, where medical marijuana is legal and an employee has a valid prescription for it, disciplinary action against the individual could result in a claim of discrimination or wrongful termination.
State courts have been inconsistent on these claims. The employee won the above-mentioned case, while a 2008 California Supreme Court decision reached the opposite conclusion.
Some states, such as New York, protect medical marijuana users from discrimination. Employers with operations in multiple states should verify what protections, if any, those states require. They should also make an effort to stay current on changes to the law and court decisions.
Policy changes employers can make
Some employers, particularly in those states where recreational use is legal, may choose to take a more flexible attitude toward the drug. Here are some changes you may want to consider making to your policy:
Whatever policy an employer decides to implement, it should be communicated clearly to all new and current employees during orientation and staff meetings. The policy should be enforced consistently and impartially to avoid allegations of favoritism or discrimination.
The legal landscape around marijuana use is changing rapidly. With thoughtful and well-communicated policies, employers should be able to keep their workplaces safe and sober while adapting to the changes.