September 3, 2018
by Shawn Peers, DentalPeers
Welcome back from the lazy days of summer! Getting back into gear for end of the year can be a mix of excitement and challenge. Sometimes, the challenge is turning our attention to events we have known all summer are coming, but which we put on the back burner while enjoying the great weather!
Well the time to tackle those challenges is now! And one of the first ones that has been in the news for a while will become reality on October 17… legalized cannabis!
So how ready are you?
In June, the law firm Emond Harnden held a seminar on legalized cannabis in the workplace. The information provided was valuable and I would encourage you to contact them to help guide you through this new reality.
On one level, there is nothing new. Most workplaces should already have policies prohibiting impairment on the job as it pertains to alcohol use. That policy may need to be modified to explicitly reference impairment from cannabis. Review your current policies and consider what adjustments you may need to make.
The policy component may be the easy part. Determining cannabis impairment may be problematic. First of all, employee testing is commonly prohibited in the absence of a safety concern. Mandatory testing simply may not be legal for dental offices. Secondly, current modes of testing are not particularly accurate. So even if you could test employees, the results may not be valuable.
You may have to consider training to help recognize the signs of impairment. At the very least, if you are challenged, demonstrating that you have trained your team to recognize the signs of impairment could help your case.
When dealing with a potentially impaired team member, you may have the right to request that the employee leave the workplace. In fact, it could be an issue of patient safety if you are dealing with a member of your clinical team.
If this happens, document what you observed (include the names of witnesses) and include this in the employee record. Oh, and do not allow them to drive home. Pay the cab or Uber fair instead! Imagine your potential liability if the employee is impaired and gets into an accident after you sent them home!
The issue becomes more complicated with medical marijuana. Denying employees the right to use medical cannabis at work could result in a human rights complaint. You may be looking at balancing the rights of a disabled employee versus the potential safety of patients and/or other team members.
Do NOT try to go through this alone. The question of how to balance discrimination and the duty to reasonably accommodate an employee can be extremely complex. You will need the advice of legal counsel to navigate this minefield. In fact, discuss all issues pertaining to legalized cannabis with your lawyer before you have to deal with a situation.
As you can easily see, the legalization of marijuana will pose some new challenges. Hopefully this blog can help direct your mind in the right direction. Take the time to become informed about this very dramatic social change. It truly is unprecedented and the more you inform yourself, the better you will be prepared for the bumps in the road that will inevitably come from it.