January 27th, 2010
Even though a number of states are now allowing the use of medical marijuana, employers are facing a dilemma between medical users and workplace drug-testing policies. Some employers are keeping a “zero-tolerance” policies – which means that any worker who tests positive for marijuana would be fired, while others even allow medical marijuana users to use the drug at work. The courts are getting involved in deciding whether medical-use laws provide any protection to workers.
Any employer has the right to ensure productivity and safety around machinery, and since the use of marijuana has an effect on employees’ ability to perform, it becomes a big concern and raises the need “to be sure their mind is clear.”
A couple of examples. Idaho high school teacher resigned after being charged with smoking marijuana on school grounds, even though he was a legal patient. Denver city employee was fired because he failed a routine drug test taken after an on-duty car accident. The employee said medical-marijuana caused the positive test results.
No state or federal medical-marijuana law requires employers to make any accommodations for medical users, so companies remain uncertain about where their legal ground is in firing medical-marijuana users who fail drug tests.
The question that is being raised is – can an employer punish someone for doing something that is constitutionally protected? And the answer – there are no clear answers right now.