HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -- There are a lot of questions surrounding the new recreational marijuana bill, including how the new law will impact employers and employees.
It’s hard to find a precedent for something like this, a substance that was once illegal is now legal for people to consume.
So, it’s important to know what employers can and should do about it.
“Organizations are going to have to understand very specifically where they have leeway and where they don’t,” said David Lewis, CEO of Operations Inc.
Next month, anyone over the age of 21 can have marijuana in Connecticut, which has a lot of companies asking whether they need to change their policies over the drug.
“It’s a fresh issue, but we’ve definitely been getting flooded with questions,” said Sarah Westby, associate at Shipman & Goodwin LLP.
When it comes to employers setting their own rules for workers, they can. The law allows companies to take disciplinary action.
In fact, some jobs still fall under regulations from the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration or other organizations.
In most cases, the law requires employers to set out clear policies first. But labor Lawyer Sarah Westby says that’s a good idea anyway.
“You want to make your rules clear, get it in writing, and get the notice out to employees,” Westby said.
She added that employers should think of all possible scenarios when setting policies.
“For example, if an employee posts something to Facebook of them smoking a joint at a concert,” Westby said.
Human resources consultant David Lewis said consistency matters. If you’re not willing to discipline, or even fire employees who test positive for pot, don’t test at all.
“We’re advising there that you look at this just like you look at alcohol,” Lewis said.
He added that an important distinction is whether there is a safety concern.
State and federal regulations already set rules on substance use at home for some jobs, like those involving heavy machinery or a lot of driving. Those are still in place.
When it comes to suspecting an employee consumes marijuana while working, companies can take action, even if someone is working remotely.
Westby said even there, employers should set clear guidelines before taking action.
“You can’t discriminate against certain people because they have a trait that makes you think they might be using cannabis more than someone else,” Westby said.
Some companies are trying to develop tests that can determine if someone is currently under the influence of pot. But Westby and Lewis both say employers should be skeptical. No law enforcement agency has found a test that is reliable enough to use for policing.