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Medical Marijuana in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

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May 07, 2018 9:00 AM

Medical-Marijuana-in-the-Workplace-What-You-Need-to-Know-compressorEmployers want to know the best way to manage medical cannabis at work while employees using this medication want to ensure it won’t impact their jobs. 

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Here’s what you need to know about medical marijuana at work, regardless of the side you’re on.

Employers Have a Duty to Accommodate

All employers have a duty to accommodate a disability up to the point of undue hardship—this is a duty enforced by human rights legislation. Employers are required to go through a full assessment with the employee who has the disability to determine possible workplace restrictions and modifications to ensure that person can work in a safe manner. 

Employers are responsible for ensuring their staff can still perform at work. This means allowing the employee to return to the same position as before, with the possibility of some tasks being exchanged for others. If that isn’t possible, the employer should transfer that person to a position comparable in duties and wages, among other factors. However, an employer’s duty does not go so far as to create an entirely new, tailored position. There will be a mix of give and take. 

Any kind of disability triggers the duty to accommodate. Employers aren’t supposed to discriminate against employees taking medical cannabis. An employer has a duty to accommodate employees using medical marijuana the same way they accommodate any other employee taking any other medication.

It’s about Balancing Health and Safety

This duty doesn’t let employees off the hook. They can’t use this medication as an excuse to be impaired at work; they’re not entitled to smoke it freely in the workplace; and it doesn’t give them the right to unexcused absences. This is an impairment drug, and both sides have an obligation to each other that allows everyone to work safely and effectively. 

Safety-sensitive positions, such as forklift drivers and truck drivers, will be scrutinized more significantly because impairment affects safety. The employer may need to revisit and modify their workplace policies. Employers are taking every reasonable precaution to create a safe work environment, and employees have a duty to meet those safety measures. 

How do we regulate cannabis? There are difficult decisions ahead. There’s a continued right to prohibit impairment at work. A successful outcome can only be reached if there’s honesty, transparency, and collaboration between employers and employees.

Employers Are Entitled to Some Information

It won’t be enough for employees to just tell their employers they use medical marijuana: Employers are privy to limited information regarding an employee’s authorization. Mosaic Potash v. United Steelworkers set a precedent that outlines what employers are entitled to know. This includes the strain and dosage, but it doesn’t go so far as to allow the employer to know the condition being treated.

Employers require some information in order to accommodate the employee in question. An employer may request medical information from the doctor or seek the assistance of an independent health practitioner when there are questions about the employee’s fitness and ability to perform required duties. It all relates to striking a balance that allows the worker to work without restriction—without risking the safety of others.

Both sides should have an open conversation to decide the next best move and make changes that still allow employees to complete their jobs.

More litigation will no doubt develop as this issue becomes more widely spread. Get answers to all your questions about medical marijuana. Speak to the knowledgeable doctors at Aleafia Health who can answer all of your questions regarding medical cannabis in the workplace.

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Topics: Medical Marijuana

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