Can You Fire a Construction Worker that Uses Medical Marijuana?

Marijuana and drug policies should be carefully reviewed

Worker smoking marijuana. Photo Martinalonsophotography Flickr

The legalization of certain drugs, like marijuana, for recreational or medical purposes, is having a deep impact on how construction companies are managing these situations. As time goes by, more and more jurisdictions are making changes to their laws and regulations on what they consider as medical marijuana, and those changes could have a huge impact on the way you conduct your business. Medical marijuana has the potential to become a very large issue when there is an individual using it by prescription.

It has been found that workers who use drugs miss more work, cause more accidents, change jobs more frequently and cost more money to employers than drug-free employees.

What if it's Allowed by the State?

Many states have already approved using medical marijuana for individuals, and with this approval, the issues are brought to surface if you have a drug-free policy in your business. Many states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, but company policies might require employees to pass drug tests to keep their employment or even to get hired. So, what happens if you have an employee that tested positive for the drug? Well, you need to keep reading and go to every specific state regulation as they have some clauses addressing these particular situations. Some states have laws indicating that companies with drug-free policies should be able to decide whether or not an employee has violated the company policy, and there could be a valid reason for firing that employee if it has tested positive.

Such decision can still be seen as law-compliant, but it is a matter of legal wording and could be challenged at the state level. As of 2015, prohibit employees from firing workers who have been prescribed with marijuana for medical purposes.

Construction Workers Using Marijuana on Federal Projects

Now, the federal government or federal funded project might have a different interpretation of the law, and some other caveats will apply here.

At a federal level, marijuana usage is still illegal, and thus the reason why any contractor working for federal agencies might be asked to prove that all employees need to have a zero-drug policy, and by zero-drug, I mean nothing, not even medical marijuana. At a federal level as of 2015, a worker can be fired if its drug test comes out to be positive. Furthermore, a contractor can even be asked to fire an employee or neglect him from participating in federal projects even if the worker has used marijuana during non-working hours.

What a Contractor Must Do to be Prepared for Marijuana Legalization?

The following are some guidelines that builders must follow to be in compliance with local laws and regulations.

  • Contractors with a drug testing policy need to communicate such policy and have all employees acknowledge that they have read the policy.
  • Federal employees and/or contractors are expressly prohibited from marijuana use; testing might be required.
  • Contractors shall have guidelines on using marijuana outside of work.
  • Contractors shall review their company policies at least once a year to make sure they are addressing the latest law requirements.
  • Review all state and federal laws, before firing the employee, to make sure you are taking the right decision in regards to your employee.

    Once thing can be said, marijuana or any other drug is dangerous, and workers under the influence can cause safety accidents especially when working or operating construction equipment.