Cannabis in the WorkplaceMarch 8, 2019
New Jersey’s cannabis medical program will be expanding, as debates continue about legalization for adult use. As legislators weave their way through changing laws, employers are expressing concerns about increased cannabis use in workplaces. State medical marijuana laws allow those with legal prescriptions to use it, but they do not specify that companies must let cannabis be consumed in the workplace. This is true even if the worker has a prescription and a New Jersey Department of Health medical cannabis ID card.
Drug Testing for Cannabis
Employers are permitted to perform drug tests on employees and applicants, and this is not expected to change. In 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stipulated that blanket drug testing following a workplace incident is not allowed. In these situations, there must be a basis for believing that drug impairment was present before testing. Private companies can only carry out random drug tests for employees who perform safety-sensitive work, such as heavy machinery operators, police officers, and truck drivers.
Some of the current guidelines reflect an August 2018 federal court case. An employee who was legally using medical marijuana had an accident while using a forklift; he was informed that he could not return to work until he took a drug test. He refused, since the medical cannabis would cause him to fail the test. The company won, setting a precedent that companies do not have to waive mandatory drug tests for workers that are medical marijuana patients.
A Panel Discussion
The New Jersey Business & Industry Association held a panel discussion on cannabis and the economy. An area attorney said that though laws may be changing, it should not lead to sudden increases of workers being impaired on the job. The panelists agreed that problems can arise when an employee uses medical marijuana on their own time and work while it is still in their system. If they are drug tested at work and the result is positive, this data may not be reliable. This is because these tests are not completely accurate; they do not show when the drugs were used, or the amount.
During the panel discussion, it was recommended that companies proceed carefully for now. If an employer believes that a worker appears intoxicated, they should document all the details. The worker should be temporarily removed from their work duties if they are involved with a safety sensitive job. Guidelines regarding drug testing are also unclear, including when to administer them and how to handle the results. Firing an employee that fails a drug test could be cause for a lawsuit. Companies that give drug tests before hiring people can get into trouble for asking the applicant if they have a medical cannabis card. There is also the added complication of drug test inaccuracy.
The panelists recommended that companies design their own cannabis policies and pay attention as new laws develop. Another lawyer at the event pointed out that employers need to stay informed about the legislation and understand that it is still a work in progress.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Employees’ Rights
If you experienced issues regarding cannabis in the workplace, contact the skilled Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. We will fight to obtain the compensation you deserve. Fill out an online form or call us at 215-569-1999 for a free consultation today. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout South Jersey.