Starting on Jan. 1, Nevada became the first state in the nation to make it illegal for a company to discriminate against potential hires who test positive for marijuana during drug screening.
“This is a sign of things to come,” says Rob Wilson, human resources expert and President of Employco USA, a national employment solutions firm with locations across the country. “Nevada is starting a trend that we will soon see in many states across the country.”
The employment expert says that as medical and recreational marijuana are now legal in many states across the country, it won’t be long before other cities and states join Nevada in making it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees for using marijuana in their personal lives.
“While some professions such as EMTs or firefighters will still have these regulations, in general, job candidates will no longer be penalized for marijuana use,” says Wilson. “Your ability to monitor drug use among your employees is going to depend on whether or not you are a unionized or private workplace. While you have the right to expect and require sobriety from workers on the job, it can become a bit tricky when you suspect drug use and want to act on your fears.”
Wilson says that if you work in a non-unionized environment, you should ask a supervisor or human resources team member to help you determine if an employee is under the influence of marijuana.
“If your suspicions are backed up by other leaders in your company, you can discipline and even terminate your employee,” says Wilson.
If you work in a collective-bargaining workplace, Wilson says that you should have a series of steps laid out in your handbook that will help everyone understand what the outcome of marijuana use on the job will be.
“These steps might include drug testing, verbal warnings, and even requiring your employees to enroll in a EAP program if they want to keep their job,” says Wilson, referring to Employee Assistance Programs which can offer drug counseling for employees struggling with addiction.
Wilson says that even though Americans’ rights are changing as it relates to marijuana use, employers can still have a zero-tolerance policy about drug use on the job, even if the employee has the legal right to use marijuana recreationally or medically.
“While it is against the law to discriminate against someone simply because they have a medical marijuana card, as this could be seen as discrimination against someone with a disability, you can still require sobriety among your employees and treat marijuana the same way you would alcohol or prescription drugs like Vicodin,” says Wilson. “Whether an employee is driving heavy machinery or approving loans, you need your workers to be clear-headed and capable of performing at a high level.”