Marijuana use is rising across the U.S. and Connecticut – for both recreational and medical reasons.
And that fact is putting employers everywhere in a bit of a bind.
As we have written in the past:
Connecticut employers are still permitted to outlaw the ingestion of marijuana at work (or in public places or in moving vehicles). In fact, Connecticut law does “not restrict an employer’s ability to prohibit the use of intoxicating substances during work hours or restrict an employer’s ability to discipline an employee for being under the influence of intoxicating substances during work hours.”
Until recently, courts in Connecticut and across the country have indeed sided with employers who fire an employee found to be under the influence while at work.
However, with more widespread legalization and the stigma around pot usage fading, that pattern is beginning to change.
Recently, workers who lost jobs after testing positive for marijuana (and having used the drug for medical purposes) won court fights with their employers in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Arizona, and Delaware.
Why did judges side with employees in these cases?
They did so in large part because current drug tests are not sophisticated enough to determine whether someone used pot to get high on the way to work or consumed medical marijuana days earlier to manage a medical problem.
All of these cases are leading employers to ask the question – do I really have the right to maintain a drug-free workplace – and doesn’t failing to do so potentially put other employees and my business at risk?
Now employers must add this new question to the calculus – do I risk a costly lawsuit if I drug test and fire an employee when I find evidence of marijuana use?
So where is all this heading?
That’s still a bit hard to predict. According to a few legal experts – some employers are looking at a tight labor market and, for pragmatic reasons, beginning to scrap pre-employment drug tests altogether.
At the end of the day, this area of the law is changing rapidly and Connecticut employers need to remember this fact: employees using marijuana for medical reasons do receive a limited and defined degree of protected status under Connecticut law.
To make sure you understand the rules, have a qualified employment law attorney review your current employee handbook and any provisions regarding the use of intoxicating substances to make sure you are protecting your rights and the rights of those who work for you.
If you’re an employer and have questions about labor and employment law, including questions about drug testing employees, consider calling on the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Connecticut. We do one thing and one thing only – we are an employer defense law firm – in fact, we are one of the largest employer defense law firms in the region. What’s more, each of our attorneys has over 20 years of experience in employment law and labor law matters and can provide your business with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please contact us if we can help you.
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