Could vacationing in a place where pot is legal be used as an excuse for a positive test?
Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 5:09 p.m.
Q: Last week you discussed how the recent legalization of marijuana may affect employers in Colorado, which made me think of a hypothetical situation: What if someone in Florida tests positive for marijuana, but they explain it was because they just returned from vacationing in Colorado, where it's legal? What should an employer do?
A: For private companies that are a Drug Free Workplace (DFWP), which meets the state of Florida statute requirements (qualifying them for a 5 percent discount on worker comp premiums), or for public-sector employers whose employees are subject to the same rules — they would do nothing different. They would simply treat it as any other marijuana positive. Whether someone had pot legally in Colorado, Washington or Amsterdam; or had it illegally here in Florida — should make no difference on how it's handled.
For this group of employers, testing positive in a pre-employment drug test usually means employment is denied or rescinded; testing positive after-employment usually results in some sort of mandatory rehab. Nothing here would change, it'd be business as usual.
However, employers who have more lenient drug policies that don't meet state requirements and don't qualify for the discount — I call these DFWP “light” — may have more leeway on what to do if someone tests positive. Most of these are smaller, private businesses with a policy that's not too specific but generally states that “drug use or possession isn't allowed at work.”
These companies have a lot more latitude and ability to act at their own discretion, which might range from some counseling, to a reprimand to termination. As long as they respond consistently, they can be as strict or lenient as they choose.
In the big picture, most businesses benefit from adopting some type of DFWP. Not just for the possible discount, but because they'll likely have fewer missed days, fewer injuries and increased productivity.
In my opinion, the eventual nationwide legalization of marijuana (let's face it, it's coming) will not necessarily undermine the benefits of a drug-free workplace.
Marijuana will be treated like other legal drugs, like alcohol and prescription meds. The workplace will adapt, we always do, and that's a good thing.
Eva Del Rio is a human resources consultant and business owner. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Facebook.
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