The growing legalization of marijuana and a collision between personal freedoms and workplace policies are causing wrongful termination challenges for employers. EPL losses rank as the third most common type of loss overall.
The legal landscape continues to evolve, and employers are challenged to uphold employee rights while maintaining a safe workplace. A rising number of EPL claims involve employers terminating employees for positive marijuana test results, even when used off-duty or for medical reasons. While the protection of medical marijuana users is more widespread, it’s worth noting that some states have also extended their support to those who enjoy using marijuana for recreational purposes.
General EPL Losses vs. Marijuana-Related EPL Losses
Marijuana Workplace Policies: Navigating the Legal Landscape
Historically, courts have sided with employers in cases of wrongful dismissal or workplace discrimination related to marijuana use. However, a few recent cases have departed from this precedence.
For example, the Pennsylvania Superior Court recently reached a decision affirming that the state’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) permits an employee to initiate legal action against their employer for negative consequences arising from their status as medical marijuana users. Another case in Arizona involved a Walmart employee who was dismissed after testing positive for marijuana in violation of the company’s drug policy. In this instance, the district court found that Walmart had acted against the provisions of the Arizona MMA and wrongfully terminated the employee. However, the court upheld the employer’s right to terminate an employee for using marijuana on the premises or during working hours.
Certain employers may have a greater level of protection against this type of legal action compared to others. For instance, there might be a valid rationale for prohibiting medical marijuana usage among commercial drivers or law enforcement personnel.
Marijuana-Related Risks: Strategies to Safeguard Your Workplace
The introduction of partial legalization of marijuana has brought about a multifaceted risk landscape that poses challenges for HR departments and risk managers. Employers can proactively address this issue with several measures, including:
Staying up to date with changes in federal and state marijuana legislation and regulations.
Assessing and revising drug testing policies and employment contracts to ensure compliance with state legislation.
Seeking guidance from legal counsel to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
Providing comprehensive training to human resources personnel and managers on marijuana-related employment matters.
Developing comprehensive policies and guidelines to regulate employees’ usage of marijuana within the workplace.
Ensuring a secure work environment and promptly addressing impairment matters.
Securing Employment Practices Liability (EPL) insurance and following marijuana-related risk mitigation strategies to protect your organization.
James P. Randisi, President of Randisi & Associates, Inc., has been helping employers protect their clients, workforce and reputation through implementation of employment screening and drug testing programs since 1999. 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: email@example.com or the website at randisiandassociates.com