Home Resources Articles (Archives) YOU HEARD WHAT? Addressing Employee Conversation about Marijauna

YOU HEARD WHAT? Addressing Employee Conversation about Marijauna

Real Life Incidents: Working Partners® Consortium members receive phone support and consultation about drug-free workplace (DFWP) issues — a benefit we term “troubleshooting.” Here is a brief description of a troubleshoot call and our response/suggestions.

Working Partners® received a troubleshoot call from a Drug-Free Workplace (DFWP) Program Administrator, “Mike.” A supervisor approached Mike that morning after directly overhearing a conversation between two of his employees, “Brian” and “Matt.”

The employees were working on a task together and didn’t realize the supervisor was nearby. Brian was talking about having insomnia for the last few weeks and mentioned that he was thinking about trying marijuana gummies since his cousin had luck with them and is sleeping better.

The supervisor did not say anything to the employees, but instead brought the issue to the attention of his Program Administrator, Mike, right after it happened. Mike then called Working Partners® as he was unsure how to address the situation in light of Ohio’s recent legalization of adult use marijuana.

Mindful Brian had not yet used marijuana gummies, but rather was “thinking about it,” the Program Administrator wanted to discuss options for how to address the situation with the employee, and if he needed to say anything to the other employee, Matt.

The Working Partners® staff first reviewed the Company’s DFWP policy and their stance on medical marijuana, and Ohio’s law that legalized marijuana.

Ohio’s law (as passed and as of the publication of this Wayfinder) supports employers’ efforts to maintain a drug-free workplace. As stated in the law,

  • employers do not have to allow employees to use, possess or distribute cannabis;
  • they are allowed to create or maintain a drug testing policy, drug-free workplace policy, or zero tolerance drug policy that is inclusive of marijuana;
  • they are allowed to hire, discharge, discipline, and take “adverse employment action” against employees who use or possess the drug;
  • and an employee who is discharged from employment because of their use of cannabis will be considered to have been discharged for “just cause.”

This Company’s policy states that they do not allow any exceptions for marijuana, including for a medical use, and Mike confirmed they have no plans to change their stance. He shared that management has confirmed this stance for both safety reasons and in order to remain compliant with several contract requirements.

After this initial policy point was established, the Working Partners® staff and Mike discussed the two key issues.

Safety – Both employees who were overhead talking at this company work in safety-sensitive positions. They work on motorized equipment, use cutting tools and sometimes work at a height. In addition, both drive quite a bit each day. Mike stated there has been no history of any reasonable suspicion warning signs in either employee’s history but did state he would be concerned if one of them used marijuana, even for a medical reason.

Communication – Since Ohio legalized marijuana, the company had not clearly communicated to their employees that their DFWP policy would remain the same. We reminded Mike that unless they make this very clear, employees might assume the company is going to relax their standards. Mike said they were not planning to do their annual DFWP training until the summer, and we brainstormed other ways they might get the word out (e.g., a special meeting, email announcement, posting in the breakroom).

At minimum, Mike decided he and the supervisor would sit down with the two employees, separately, to be sure they understood the company’s policy. And when talking with Brian, they also planned to encourage him to see his doctor about his insomnia to explore approaches that would benefit his health without compromising his safety on the job or his compliance with company policies.

As a member of Working Partners® Consortium, don’t forget your access to this troubleshooting service. As we remind our members, if it takes more than 10 minutes to figure out a situation, call us for help and be safe, not sorry!

Call Working Partners® Consortium at (614) 337-8200 or 866-354-3397.

DISCLAIMER: This publication is designed to provide accurate information regarding the subject matter covered. It is provided with the understanding that those involved in the publication are not engaged in rendering legal counsel. If legal advice is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.