Employer Alert: Marijuana in the Workplace

Jul 27, 2023

ALBANY, NY | A jury awarded $191,762 to an Amsterdam wastewater treatment worker who was fired by the city three years ago after testing positive for marijuana. The jury concluded that the worker was subjected to discrimination by city officials who disregarded his medical marijuana prescription for persistent back pain. This decision is said to be the first in New York where an employer was found to have violated the state’s human rights laws regarding the prescription of medical marijuana. Additionally, the worker might be qualified for job reinstatement, and the city might be required to cover his legal expenses.

In March 2021, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) was signed into law which legalized recreational cannabis use under certain parameters. This Act has created many issues for businesses throughout New York State specifically regarding employee issues. Under the MRTA it is unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire, employ, license, fire, or discriminate against an individual in their compensation, promotion, or terms of employment because of an individual’s legal use of cannabis or because their legal recreational activities include cannabis. This applies to cannabis use, outside of the employee’s work hours, off the employer’s premises, or without use of the employer’s equipment or property at such businesses.

Although you can no longer drug test for cannabis, absent a Federal Contract, employers still have some rights. An employer does not violate the law if actions are taken because the employee is impaired by the use of cannabis. Under the law, “impaired’ means that the employee manifests specific articulable symptoms that decrease the employee’s performance or duties. This also includes specific articulated symptoms that interfere with the employer’s duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace, free from hazards required by state and federal law. The law further protects employer actions mandated by state or federal law or which would force the employer to violate federal or state law, or which would cost the employer to lose federal funding or a federal contract. Additionally, employers can ban use of cannabis during employee break and meal times whether paid or unpaid.

Employers, contact us TODAY for the expertise and guidance you need on the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. Our team will ensure that your company complies with every aspect of this Act, helping you to avoid any unforeseen consequences for your business.

Read the full article from Times Union here.

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