During the November 2016 election, eight of the nine states with marijuana-related decisions on the ballot voted to legalize the drug for medical and/or recreational purposes. This trend has gained traction across the country; today, more than half the nation has state laws in place that allow marijuana for medicinal use.
Marijuana legalization has created tension between state laws, federal law and organizational best practices nationwide, causing employers from numerous industries to revisit their current drug-screening policies to ensure they are best serving their people and the company. To learn more about how organizations could handle this shift in state policy, Paycom invited Sheehan Phinney attorney Jim Reidy to the HR Break Room podcast.
Listen to expert and attorney Jim Reidy from Sheehan Phinney discuss current and future drug laws on the HR Break Room podcast episode, “A New Leaf on Drug Policy Screening Policies: Time for a Change?”
Specific plans of action may be difficult to determine, but Reidy provided valuable insight and four major takeaways about quickly changing drug screening-policies.
1. Ask the Big Questions Now
Employers should consider asking a few key, ever-evolving questions about their current drug-screening policies right now.
Reidy suggests asking:
- What do your drug and alcohol policies actually say?
- Are you even asking about medications in the workplace? If so, why?
- Are you asking about the current use of illicit or illegal drugs?
- For nationwide companies, how do you draft policy in states where marijuana is either medically or recreationally legal? Do you default to federal law or try to accommodate employees and prospective candidates in those positions?
Hard answers may not exist on how to accommodate every employer and employee concern, but asking these questions now will help prepare you for issues that could arise as state laws continue to evolve. If marijuana legislation begins to affect your state, you will be more familiar with the possible pressure points that may influence your policies.
2. Know Risks and Current State Laws
During the HR Break Room podcast, Reidy cited risk management as one of the most important aspects of changing state laws.
“HR professionals generally work in risk management, and one issue with risk management is safety and productivity, “Reidy said. “Twenty-six states now have medical marijuana approved, and eight states and the District of Columbia have recreational marijuana approved, and those numbers will likely increase in the next year or two. Employers are concerned about what impact it’s going to have on everything from attendance to mental acuity, productivity and largely safety.”
Take time to educate yourself on exactly what your state laws require before choosing a strategy. The better you understand your state’s legislation, the easier it will be to determine how it may impact your organization.
3. Communicating with Managers and Supervisors
According to Reidy, one of the most important things HR can do to prepare for changes is to learn about employee concerns by communicating and working closely with your managers.
“Assuming that they’ve tailored their policy appropriately to their workplace, to their locations, to their standards, their mission and the like, then I would spend a fair amount of time on training my supervisors and managers on the new policy,” he said. “Managers, I like to say, are your eyes and ears, but they’re also your Achilles’ heel. Be very careful with your managers … once managers have been trained, have them share policy changes and train them effectively to ensure they know what it means.”
Once your organization has created these clear channels of communication between HR, managers and employees, it will be easier to create a strategy for implementing a new policy if changes occur on a state or federal level.
4. No Universal Answer
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from our talk with Reidy was that there is no universal answer for all organizations, which is why employers must learn what works best for their business.
Reidy said it best, “employers, know your workplace, know your locations and know the state law that might apply. Be aware that the state law is certainly going to be different than the federal law, and have a realistic approach to screening and testing, and being consistent about your enforcement of your policy going forward.”
Learn more by subscribing to HR Break Room and listen to our podcast, A New Leaf in Drug Screening Policies: Is it Time for a Change?
Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.