Most employers have a substance abuse policy in place to protect the company, customers and their workers. However, lately it has come under attack because some States are passing new laws such as medical marijuana or legalizing personal use. However, these laws do not protect the employer. If you knew that an employee was using marijuana, for instance, and they get into a car wreck, you can bet that the opposing attorney will say the employer was negligent. If you have a substance abuse policy in place and you are executing it correctly, you stand much better chance of winning. This is especially true if you terminate employees who are shown to have drugs in their system.
I mention all of this, because Colorado, a State with legalized personal use of marijuana, just reaffirmed the zero tolerance policy of an employer. Dish TV Network has a policy in place and when a quadriplegic employee was given a random drug test, he failed. He had a legal medical marijuana prescription due to his severe injuries. However, the employers zero tolerance policy prevailed in the Colorado State Supreme Court ruling 6-0. The Court said that the firing for testing positive was valid under the terms of the policy. Even though the employee did not use the marijuana at work, the chemical THC stays in the system for weeks. Though the state law is meant to protect employees from being fired for off work “recreational use” of marijuana, under Federal law it is still illegal.
21 States have medical marijuana laws and 4 states have legalized personal use and sale, but we now have 4 cases that have all gone in the employer’s favor if they have terminated an employee using their Substance Abuse policy. The Keys are consistency in application of the policy and good communication of the policy with employees.
As always, if you are a customer of HR Mobile Services, Inc., you may contact us at any time with questions about your policies in your employee packet.