Employer Risks For Medical Marijuana In The Workplace

Navigating Canada’s medical marijuana rules can be a challenge for many employers. No matter how you may feel about its use personally, your employees do have rights under the law when it comes to receiving medical treatment. Here are some of the biggest risks facing employers today. 

Following The Duty To Accommodate  

Canadians can be prescribed medical marijuana for a host of conditions ranging from cancer to chronic pain to sleep disorders and mental health issues. As such, employers must make the same accommodations on the job as they would for any other prescribed pharmaceutical. However, in Ontario, employees do not have the right to be impaired in the workplace when that impairment puts their safety or the safety of coworkers at risk. This can be a tricky balancing act. Solutions can range from providing the employee with a comparable job that puts them out of harm’s way or allowing a leave of absence during marijuana treatment. 

Creating An Effective, Compliant Policy  

A clear marijuana policy is absolutely necessary, but developing that policy can present challenges and risks. Most policies reflect current prescription medication policies, however, the language should be updated to include marijuana-specific policies.  For example, the term “impaired” will need to be specifically defined so employees understand whether or not their behaviour falls under the scope of the policy. The policy should also outline policies for reporting medical marijuana use and the consequences of breaching the policy or failing to disclose medical status.  

Drug Testing 

Despite the fact that recreational marijuana is legal, employers are within their rights to prohibit it on the job, just as they prohibit alcohol use or impairment at work. Random drug testing is a way to ensure compliance with policies, but the risk comes when drug testing is not implemented in a way that protects workers’ rights and when you have employees who are prescribed marijuana for a medical condition.  

While it is acceptable to drug test in prescribed circumstances like immediately following an accident, as a precondition for employment or job change, or as part of an agreed-upon rehabilitation or probationary program, employers must be able to prove reasonable cause for subjecting employees to random drug testing. Those circumstances can be tricky. Smelling marijuana is not enough to justify a random drug test but a documented history of drug use in the workplace could be.  

Treatment Reimbursement  

If an employee is injured on the job and they are prescribed medical marijuana as part of their treatment, employers could be responsible for reimbursing the employee for that treatment, just as they would for any other type of post-accident recovery plan. This is true even if the company has a clearly defined marijuana policy, as the employer has a duty to accommodate.  

Do You Need Help?  

Your legal department can help you develop fair practices that protect your company and your employees, but the landscape is incredibly challenging. If you are looking for effective strategies on hiring employees in this complex legal environment,  contact the experts at Employment Professionals Canada online or call us at 1-800-842-0421 today.