New medical marijuana laws across the country can create headaches for employers. Illinois and at least eight other states currently prohibit certain adverse employment actions against medical marijuana users. Courts in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have already issued rulings that protect medical marijuana users as long as they do not partake on the job or show up for work intoxicated. To navigate this complex environment, HR needs to craft and adopt new practices. For example, monitoring these rapidly changing marijuana laws in every state where you do business and revising employment policies as needed. Also, training supervisors to be alert for intoxication on the job, as, generally, no one is protected if they are impaired while working. However, disability laws could be interpreted to require you to make certain accommodations, such as letting a groggy employee take a break. Furthermore, professionals might need to renegotiate contracts and make sure drug-testing policies don’t violate local law. Finally, it is important to recognize that what is “legal” is not yet clear in all circumstances, so you should exercise caution. No one wants to be sued because an intoxicated employee injured someone, so it’s important to recognize that times are changing and adapt.
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