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3 Things Employers Need to Prepare for the Legalization of Marijuana

February 07, 2018, by Corina Sibley | Work Environment and Policies

Do you remember the scene in the Lion King movie where the three hyenas shudder at the mention of the name Mufasa?  Employers are having a similar reaction to the mention of marijuana legalization.  The impending mass chaos that will be unleashed by employees everywhere now partaking in something that was once illegal is being greeted by the work world as corporate Armageddon. 

I’d like to suggest nothing so dramatic will happen after July 1st, 2018 but there three items employers should have in their toolkit to prepare:

1.  Alcohol and Substance Abuse Policy: 

If you don’t already have an Alcohol and Substance Abuse Policy, now is the time to write one.  Be sure to include how the organization will handle possible impairment on the job, possible random testing for impairment in safety sensitive positions, and what happens in the event of an accident or near-miss if impairment is suspected.  It is equally important to include that any employees that are taking prescription drugs (of which marijuana will be one) that may impair their abilities on the job, they need to inform their supervisor of that fact.  Then, in consultation with the employee’s physician, an accommodation plan can be developed.

Recreational marijuana use will be treated in the same way that alcohol use is treated; both will be legal and both have the potential to create impairment on the job.  Substance abuse or addictions, whether to alcohol or drugs, is a disability under the Human Rights Code.  Employers have a duty to accommodate disabilities to the point of undue hardship. 

2.  Accommodation Process:

Define and train both managers and employees on the organization’s accommodation process and what the role of each is in this process.  Employees need to understand that in order to be accommodated, they need to provide information on their medical prognosis (not diagnosis) via their health care provider.  They also need to cooperate in the ongoing accommodation process.  The employer’s role is to work with the employee and the physician to put together a reasonable accommodation plan.  Every case is different and the employer will need to ensure the accommodation plan is based on the individual’s circumstances.  Here is an example of an accommodation plan for someone seeking treatment for an addiction from the Ontario Human Rights website:

“An employee starts a methadone treatment program. He works out an accommodation plan with his employer that allows him to collect his dose every day at a pharmacy during work hours and visit his doctor several times a week, provided he makes up the time at work. His employer is aware that he may have difficulty waking up during the acclimation stage of the program. His employer provides him with flexible work hours in the mornings to help him adjust. With these accommodations, the employee is able to fulfil the essential duties of his job."

3.  Employee Medical Form:

As part of the accommodation process, another tool in the employer’s toolbox is an Employee Medical Form.  This form will allow you to gather important information from the employee’s physician or medical health provider that will enable you to better understand the impact of the employee taking prescription marijuana (or any other type of prescribed drug that may impair them) and accommodate them appropriately. 

An employer’s role is not to treat, counsel or assume impairment or a disability.  But employers do have an important duty to inquire if they suspect that an employee may have an issue with drug or alcohol use and offer assistance and accommodation.

The three elements in an employer’s toolkit for handling the legalization of marijuana are having an Alcohol and Drug Policy, an accommodation process and an employee medical form, and ensuring your managers and employees are trained on the policy and process.

Other Articles of Interest:

3 Tips to Handling an Employee’s Absence Due to Illness

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