Pennsylvania’s gone to pot. What will medical marijuana mean for employers?
On April 17, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill legalizing medical marijuana in the Pennsylvania. Employers in the state, like those in 23 others across the country, will now need to heed the protections offered to patients who use pot for medicinal purposes.
Is your company ready for this?
What are you required to do if you have employees who are medical marijuana users? Are your policies and employee handbooks up-to-date enough to accommodate this “new normal”? According to a great article posted last week on The Employer Handbook by Eric E. Meyer (before Gov. Wolf signed the legislation), there are several things for companies to keep in mind. Specifically:
- Employer may not “discharge, threaten, refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee regarding an employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges solely on the basis of such employee’s status as an individual who is certified to use medical marijuana.”
- Employers do not have to make any accommodation for the use of medical marijuana on their property or premises of any place of employment.
- This act does not limit an employer’s ability to “discipline an employee for being under the influence of medical marijuana in the workplace or for working while under the influence of medical marijuana when the employee’s conduct falls below the standard of care normally accepted for that position.”
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not protect illegal drug use, but does allow for the use of a drug taken under supervision by a licensed healthcare professional. Consider treating medical marijuana as you would other prescription drugs.
- The act does not require an employer to “commit any act that would put the employer or any person acting on its behalf in violation of federal law.”
Meyers noted that there was some confusion within the bill that should be of concern to employers:
I’m getting some mixed signals here. On the one hand, you can’t discriminate “solely on the basis of such employee’s status as an individual who is certified to use medical marijuana.” (my emphasis). This suggests that you can discriminate for other reasons, such as actual use of medical marijuana.
However, then it says “Nothing in this act shall require an employer to make any accommodation of the use of medical marijuana on the property or premises of any place of employment.” (my emphasis). This suggests that you may have to accommodate the use of medical marijuana outside of work. Unless the employee shows up to work under the influence.
Now that this is the law of the land, we will see how the legislation is interpreted out in the real world. Stay tuned for updates, folks…
How to deal with medical marijuana as an employer
Educating your employees about what they can expect at work will be important. In some industries, for example, laws forbids you from employing people with Schedule 1 drugs (as defined by the United States Controlled Substances Act) in their system, which means this new law won’t change anything once it goes into effect.
“Keep in mind that for a person to be certified to use medical marijuana, they will potentially already have an ADA qualifying disability,” says myHR Partner president Tina Hamilton, PHR. “You can use this issue as a chance to update your handbooks so that they clearly cover workplace accommodations for disabilities.”
HR issues got you stumped?
Medical marijuana and ADA compliance. Employee handbooks and talent retention. Hiring and training. Human resources encompasses so much of what makes your business run smoothly, successfully and profitably. Contact us today to discuss how myHR Partner’s HR outsourcing can help your bottom line.