HR Network Meeting Recap: Drug Testing

The legalization of medical marijuana and the increasing rise in opioid abuse has made drug testing a hot topic for human resource professionals. The Council of Industry HR Network met on March 27th for presentations by Kathryn Russo, Jackson Lewis PC, and Robyn Seidman and Jean Strella, RJS Solutions LLC, on both the legal aspect and the best practices for drug testing and dealing with substance abuse in the workplace.

Russo opened her presentation by discussing how even though marijuana is legal in several states for both medical and recreational use it is still illegal under the Federal Government. This means that if you are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, it remains unacceptable for any safety‐sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the DOT’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana, whether for medical reasons or not.

While medical marijuana is connected to an employee’s disability, it is permissible for employers to prohibit the use, possession and being under the influence of it while at work. The difficult part is when it comes to drug testing or if an employee volunteers that they use medical marijuana off-duty. Because the drug stays in the body for such an extended period of time after use someone using medical marijuana will test positive for the drug even if they never use it at work.

Whatever is affecting employee performance on the job it is important to approach the situation with documented observations of behaviors and the resulting effects in the workplace.  This, as Seidman and Strella explained, is true whether it is recreational drug or alcohol use or prescription medication that is affecting an employee’s performance. When discussing this concern with the employee it is also important to not make accusations of drug or alcohol abuse as this could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Following up with support such as a referral to an employee assistance program is very important. The key points for this interaction are to be tactful, ensure confidentiality and to refrain from being judgmental.

There was also discussion of what drugs are best to test for and whether testing for marijuana is even useful in the current climate. It is important to remember to consult with your legal counsel whenever you have questions on topics such as this because each situation is unique and the legal landscape is constantly changing.

With over 30 attendees this is one of our largest network meetings and Council member Access: Supports for Living hosted and provided a delicious lunch.  They delivered a presentation on the many valuable programs they provide the community such as: Behavioral Health Services for Adults, Family & Children’s Services, Foster Care/Child Welfare Services.

Council members may find that Access: Business Solutions which offers custodial services, facilities management and contract manufacturing such as assembly work, to be of particular interest. Members looking to expand their workforce may also want to know more about their Supported Employment program that is helping people with disabilities prepare for, get, and keep meaningful employment in the community.

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