As medical marijuana becomes legal in an increasing number of states, employers are facing new challenges when it comes to managing the use of medical marijuana by employees in safety-sensitive job roles. In Pennsylvania, employers may be particularly impacted by this issue as the state has legalized medical marijuana use. As a lawyer who works with employers in Pennsylvania, I have seen the complexities that can arise when medical marijuana is used by employees in safety-sensitive positions.
Under Pennsylvania law, employers are not required to accommodate medical marijuana use in the workplace. However, employers must be careful when conducting drug tests and when disciplining employees for marijuana use. Significantly, medical marijuana users are protected under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) against discrimination and retaliation by their employers.
The biggest challenge facing employers is how to balance the needs of employees who use medical marijuana with the need to maintain a safe workplace. While medical marijuana may be legal and prescribed by a doctor, it can impair a person’s ability to perform certain job duties. This is particularly true for employees in safety-sensitive job roles, such as those in transportation, healthcare, and law enforcement.
To address this issue, employers should develop policies that balance the rights of employees to use medical marijuana with the need to maintain a safe workplace. Employers should consider implementing drug testing policies that account for medical marijuana use, and they should also provide training to managers and supervisors on how to identify impairment and respond appropriately.
Employers also should be mindful of their potential obligations to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who use medical marijuana under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state disability laws. This may include allowing employees to use medical marijuana outside of work hours or transferring the employee to a non-safety-sensitive position if one is available. However, employers are not required to make accommodations that would pose an undue hardship on the business or would compromise safety.
Finally, employers should be aware of the specific legal protections afforded to medical marijuana users under the Pennsylvania MMA. Employers should avoid taking adverse employment actions against employees based solely on their status as medical marijuana users. Instead, employers should focus on job performance and take appropriate action if an employee’s use of medical marijuana interferes with their ability to perform their job safely and effectively.
In conclusion, employers in Pennsylvania are facing new challenges when it comes to managing medical marijuana use by employees in safety-sensitive job roles. By developing clear policies, providing training to managers, and making reasonable accommodations, employers can balance the needs of employees with the need to maintain a safe workplace. Employers should to stay up to date on the latest legal developments in this area and to seek legal guidance when necessary.
Jeff Burke is an attorney at MacElree Harvey, Ltd., working in the firm’s Employment and Litigation practice groups. Jeff counsels businesses and individuals on employment practices and policies, executive compensation, employee hiring and separation issues, non-competition and other restrictive covenants, wage and hour disputes, and other employment-related matters. Jeff represents businesses and individuals in employment litigation such as employment contract disputes, workforce classification audits, and discrimination claims based upon age, sex, race, religion, disability, sexual harassment, and hostile work environment. Jeff also practices in commercial litigation as well as counsels business on commercial contract matters.