It is important to be aware of state laws and rules governing the implementation of reasonable accommodations in particular when it comes to drug testing. This recent article by New Hampshire Public Radio illustrates why it is important. Last month, NHPR reported that an employer fired a worker who was prescribed cannabis due to a medical condition. The individual had sent a letter requesting to be exempt from drug testing and was rejected. Ultimately, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that the employer should not have fired the worker.
The employee suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and did not request to use cannabis on company property during work hours. Regardless, he was dismissed from his position. While the first judge in his case ruled that an employer is not obligated to provide reasonable accommodations for marijuana usage, the appeal proved otherwise. New Hampshire’s state laws don’t state that cannabis cannot be considered an accommodation. Finally, the appeal judge declared that reasonable accommodations should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. What can we hope to learn from this situation?
If an employee comes to you with a reasonable accommodation request, take time to listen to them. They’ve demonstrated accountability by coming to you, and they deserve the same level of respect in return. If you are unsure about how to proceed, always consult with an expert, preferably competent employment legal counsel. Whether you seek help from within the company or outside of it, you’ll need to discuss your next steps before a decision is made. It is never smart to fire an individual simply because they requested a drug testing exemption.
It is crucial to be informed and know what applicable law requires in regard to drug testing and the rules surrounding reasonable accommodations. The last thing you want is a lengthy, complicated legal battle (and your workers probably don’t want that either). Make the right call early and do your due diligence prior to making a hasty decision.
To prevent misunderstandings and confusion from occurring, establish a clear link between the essential functions of the job and how those job functions require compliance with drug testing protocol . Before they apply for a job, workers who are informed of your drug testing policy and the essential functions of the job may decide that the job is not a good fit for them. If you don’t include comprehensive drug and alcohol testing requirements in your job descriptions, on the other hand, it could come back to cost your firm time and money. When it comes to drug testing, clear communication of the process is most important.
James P. Randisi, President of Randisi & Associates, Inc., has since 1999 been helping employers protect their clients, workforce and reputation through implementation of employment screening and drug testing programs. This post does not constitute legal advice. Randisi & Associates, Inc. is not a law firm. Always contact competent employment legal counsel. Mr. Randisi can be contacted by phone at 410.494.0232 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or the website at randisiandassociates.com.