By: Alison Bender, Select Commercial Lines Account Executive

Currently in CA, employers may “prohibit the illegal use of drugs and the use of alcohol at the workplace by all employees”. What about the legalization of cannabis both at the medicinal and recreational level? Cannabis/marijuana compounds and can stay in someone’s system longer than many other drugs, and it can be very possible that an individual can test positive for the drug even though the individual hasn’t used it for weeks – this can be true for pre-employment drug testing as well as reasonable suspicion testing in the workplace and it doesn’t matter when an applicant/employee used drugs. If the applicant/employee tests positive for drugs, they failed the drug test, and you can deny employment for the applicant or look at next corrective steps and possibly even termination for the employee.

What are the appropriate and defensible steps employers can take if they suspect an employee is impaired while working?

1) Develop a clearly written Substance Abuse policy that’s distributed to all employees and posted in the workplace.
2) The policy should be implemented with an evaluation and testing protocol so the employer’s managers/supervisors know the steps when experiencing suspected impairment with an employee.

Beginning January 1, 2024, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act will prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee or job applicant based on the person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace, which will impact pre-employment testing practices. Learn more about how employers can protect themselves when it comes to Substance Abuse in the workplace and how to plan for this new cannabis regulation by watching our recap of the 4/20/23 BenderU, “Let’s Be Blunt: How to Handle Impaired Employees”.