Employee Rights Regarding Marijuana in the Workplace

Marijuana in the workplaceMarijuana laws are in a state of flux throughout the country, but the unfortunate truth is that cannabis is still a Schedule I drug that’s banned at the federal level. Eleven states have legalized recreational use of cannabis, and in these states, it’s generally treated similarly to alcohol in that employers do not need to allow its use in the workplace. Some states allow employers to develop policies that ban marijuana use, and employers are not expected to tolerate it. There are no laws in any state obligating employers to accept marijuana use or impairment from employees.

Not long ago, a drug test that revealed marijuana use was a fireable offense. Today, it’s not as clear because of the rapidly-changing attitudes regarding marijuana use, and the fact that more than half of all states — including Florida — allow it to be used for medicinal purposes. This has created issues for employers who want to keep drug-free workplaces and abide by the patchwork of laws that apply to marijuana. 

Currently, employees have no guarantee that their jobs will be protected if they’re found to have used marijuana, even if they use it on their personal time or for medical reasons. Not all hope is lost, however, as more courts are finding in favor of employees who have lost their jobs due to failed drug tests.

Does the Use of Marijuana Impact Job Safety?

The reason why many employers keep zero-tolerance drug testing policies is that they’re concerned about employees showing up to work impaired, leading to reduced productivity. It’s particularly dangerous in some industries to be under the influence of any substance. The THC in marijuana affects depth perception, reaction time, coordination, and other motor skills. In jobs involving driving or operating heavy machinery, it becomes a hazard. 

According to a study published in Volume 105, Issue 3 of Addiction called Testing for cannabis in the workplace: a review of the evidence, the acute effects of smoking cannabis impair performance for about 4 hours. 

Is Medical Marijuana Protected Under the ADA?

Medical marijuana use might still get you fired in many states, including Florida. There have been cases in which employers have fired employees with medical marijuana cards for failing marijuana drug tests, even though the employees told their employers during the hiring process that they use medical marijuana. An increasing number of employees are choosing to sue employers for wrongful termination. 

In the 33 states where medical marijuana is legal, you won’t face criminal charges for failing a drug test at work; however, your employer might not be as understanding as your physician. Fewer than half of these states have laws protecting employees from being fired or denied a job opportunity for a positive cannabis test. 

Even if you have a severe medical condition for which you use marijuana, cannabis use is not protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act. However, the ADA does require employers and employees to discuss viable accommodations for employees with disabilities. In some states, the courts have ruled that employers should provide reasonable accommodations to medical marijuana patients, such as waiving drug tests for these workers. Florida has no state laws protecting medical marijuana patients, creating a serious problem for those who want to manage their health condition and stay employed.

High Court Rules in Favor of Medical Marijuana Patient

One famous employment case involving a medical marijuana patient made waves in Massachusetts. In Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, an employee named Cristina Barbuto was fired on her first day because she had failed a drug test, and the company claimed they followed federal rather than state law. Barbuto suffers from Crohn’s disease and has written certification from her doctor for her condition. She did not use marijuana daily and informed her employer during hiring that she would not consume it before or during work.

After being fired, she filed suit in Suffolk County Superior Court for discrimination. The court granted permission to sue her employer. This ruling set a precedent in Massachusetts that protects employees from being fired for using medical marijuana. 

Orlando Marijuana Defense Lawyers Protect Your Rights

In Florida, possessing any amount of marijuana without the right qualifications is still a crime. Those who possess 20 or fewer grams of marijuana may face a misdemeanor drug possession charge, while anyone with more than 20 grams may face a felony charge. 

Marijuana crimes are still serious offenses in Orlando and Central Florida. You deserve quality representation to protect your rights. At The Umansky Law Firm, our team of drug defense lawyers has more than 100 years of combined experience fighting drug charges. We believe everyone deserves a second chance and will work hard to help you attain one. Call 407-228-3838 for a free consultation or complete our contact form. We’re available 24/7 to help you.