In the wake of the passage of Initiative 502, employers throughout Washington, are asking the question, “What now?” and “How does this change the way I run my business?” The short answer is, “Probably not a whole lot.” Yes, I know there are fearmongers out there telling employers that the way they run their business has materially changed. It has not, and it probably will not for a long time.
Here’s what Initiative 502 did.
I 502 authorized the possession of limited amounts of pot, mandated rule making for eventual stand-alone state run pot stores, and implemented a per se standard for what I call DUM (Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana).
Here is what I 502 did not do.
I 502 did not change your right to insist on a drug free workplace with zero tolerance for any drug, including marijuana. Don’t believe me; ask Jane Roe who sued her employer, Tele Tech, who refused to make an exception of its drug policy for medical marijuana users. The Washington State Supreme Court upheld her employer’s right to fire her for marijuana use even though she was legally using marijuana under the State’s medical marijuana statute. In so holding the Court reasoned that the legislature did not create protection for medical marijuana users so employers are free prohibit employees that use marijuana.
Nothing has changed with the passage of I 502.
The problem for employers is that their workforce thinks something has changed. I can foresee circumstances where
employees will fail drug tests because they are under the mistaken belief that I 502 creates an exception to their employers zero tolerance drug policy.
1. I 502 has not changed your zero tolerance policy related to marijuana.
2. I 502 has not created a protected category for employees who use marijuana
for personal or recreational use.
3. Employees do not understand how I 502 DOES NOT change the status quo.
Rod’s Action Steps:
Now, not tomorrow or the next day, your team needs to understand how I 502 impacts
the way you do business. My fear is that employers who do not take immediate steps to
educate their workforce run the risk of losing valuable employees, who mistakenly run
afoul of your drug usage policy. As all of you know, good employees are hard to find
and even more difficult to replace. Act now.
If you need help, our firm is here to meet your needs.