Along with more than 24 states that have already legalized the use of marijuana are other states in the process of permitting its use. People with specific illnesses are excited to see even more conservative states on the brink of making medical marijuana legal. However, following a recent vote, these same individuals are now learning that in exchange for smoking a joint, whether, for recreational or medicinal purposes, they may find their jobs in jeopardy.
This topic has raised a lot of concerns and questions, including whether someone can fight termination if they legally use marijuana. The issue is that while legal, a lot of employers maintain a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drugs. For users, this creates a dilemma. The concern is unlike alcohol, the effects of pot can linger for days and even weeks following use. For that reason, many companies worry about their increased liability for accidents on the job.
Most state laws allow employers to screen for drugs, including marijuana, as part of the pre-employment process. If detected, the company can refuse to hire someone, even if extremely qualified. As for testing current employees, the lines of the law are somewhat blurred. If you legally use this drug, your employer must have reason to conduct a drug test.
For instance, if marijuana threatens the safety of other employees or even the public, your employer could mandate testing. Also, if you or another party experienced or caused physical harm and property damage due to an accident after smoking marijuana, the company you work for could force you to undergo testing. Under these and other circumstances, even smoking pot legally could put your job at risk.
At this point, even if you use marijuana legally, there is no guarantee that you would not lose your job. Because every state has its own laws pertaining to this topic, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney to determine if smoking marijuana off-hours could put your employment in jeopardy. Currently, only a few states offer this protection to its workers.
Medical Marijuana Use
When it comes to using marijuana for medicinal purposes, the states of Arizona, Delaware, and Illinois have passed laws under which employers cannot fire an employee unless impaired while on the clock. However, even for off-hour use, the individual must have a valid prescription. That means you could partake of this drug when not working and return to your position but only if the marijuana does not affect job performance and workplace safety.
Outside of those states, firing an employee for smoking pot during off-hours and with a doctor’s prescription is at the discretion of the company. Regardless of the reason you are using this drug, you put yourself at risk. As a prime example, a quadriplegic man in Colorado lost his job after testing positive for marijuana.
Remember, even in states where medical marijuana is legal, and the fact the federal ADA law mandates employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with a disability, at this time, you have no protection.
Recreational Marijuana Use
Using marijuana for recreational purposes is a completely different scenario. With laws still new, there is virtually no protection. As a result, if you opt to smoke pot on the weekend with a group of friends, and you arrive at work on Monday seemingly okay, if your employer suspects something, you can be required to go through drug testing. With a positive outcome, you would likely be out of a job.
When to Contact an Attorney
If you feel your employer targeted you unfairly for drug testing or the company terminated you without proving any impairment, you need to speak with an employment attorney. That individual will review the laws specific to your state, and advise if you have any recourse for filing a wrongful termination lawsuit.