Forget about whether Bill Clinton inhaled - now you need to worry about whether your employees are coming to work high, in Maine and several other states. The medical marijuana law was intended to provide relief for people suffering from chronic pain. Employers are also feeling pain as they struggle to understand and respond to employees who now carry a medical marijuana card in their wallet.
In Maine, David Ciullo, President of Career Management Associates, and Peter Lowe, a partner with Brann & Isaacson, have been traveling around the state, educating employers on how to respond to issues and the unintended consequences arising from this new law. Here is some of the information and advice they share with their audiences.
All Employees Should Be 'Fit for Duty'
Dealing with an employee who shows up for work under the influence of medical marijuana is no different than dealing with an employee who is under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, or even prescription or over-the-counter medicine. Access to medical marijuana does not give anyone permission or an excuse to come to work under the influence. While you cannot ask your employee if they are using medical marijuana, you do have the right to make a determination if they are fit for duty. Any employee who is not considered fit for duty should be asked to leave the workplace.
It's Really About Risk and Safety
Your goal is to maintain a safe environment for your employees and customers. An employee under the influence of anything, including medical marijuana, is a safety risk. You would not let a drunk employee drive a company vehicle or operate a forklift, and you should not let an employee high on marijuana operate that type of machinery either.
The Medical Marijuana Card Is Not a 'Get Out of Jail Free' Card
Employers have the right to tell their employee that they cannot bring or use medical marijuana during work hours. Even if an employee shows you their medical marijuana card and tells you their interpretation of the law, you do have the court system on your side if you refuse to let employees use medical marijuana during breaks and their lunch hour.
Employers and the court system are still struggling to understand the workplace implications of this new law. One important fact to keep in mind: the law is on your side if you refuse to let an employee under the influence of anything perform a task that would violate the safety of other people.