In an effort to balance safety with employee rights, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission released guidelines for workplaces as a first step toward approving standards for disability recognition expert certifications. in the workplace (WIRE).
Released September 7, the guidelines state that employees cannot be prosecuted solely because of the presence of cannabis in their bodies, but that employers have the right to administer a drug test “on reasonable suspicion of Impaired”.
“It is possible to strike a balance between workplace safety and job performance and the right of adult employees to privacy and to use cannabis during their off hours,” said CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown. , in a press release. “We did this with alcohol without thinking.”
The new guidelines are intended to be used until the CRC implements the WIRE certification standards, which will be used to detect impairment by cannabis or other substances for employees or contractors.
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According to the guidelines, “Consistent with NJSA 24:6I-52a(1), and consistent with all state and federal laws, an employee shall not be subject to any adverse action by an employer solely because of the presence of cannabinoid metabolites in the employee’s bodily fluids as a result of behavior permitted under NJSA 24:6I-31 et al.”
However, employers have the right to maintain a drug-free workplace and can require an employee to undergo a drug test “if it is reasonably suspected” that they are using cannabis or appear to be under the influence of alcohol. work or following a work-related accident.
According to the guidelines, an employer cannot use the test alone to take disciplinary action against the employee; the employer must combine the results with “evidence-based documentation” of the impairment during the employee’s working hours.
The CRC has also provided guidelines for establishing this documentation, including designating another staff member or third-party contractor who is trained to complete the Reasonable Suspicion Observation Report; use this report to document behavior, physical signs and evidence (the employer should also have a standard procedure for completing this report); and using a cognitive impairment test.
In an email to NJBIZ, Ray Cantor, deputy director of government affairs for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said, “We are pleased that the CRC has released guidance that provides employers with a path forward to maintain a drug-free workplace. And that includes an alternative route to dealing with cases of reasonable suspicion without using wires. We are also delighted that the guidance released by the CRC today has incorporated a number of our suggestions and we look forward to working with the commission on its formal WIRE regulations, while also informing our members of their options regarding the application of occupational safety. ”
With respect to federal contracts, the CRC guidelines noted that “employers may be required by contract or federal law to follow specific protocols related to the determination of reasonable suspicion and drug testing and are authorized under NJSA 24:6I-52 to continue to do so”.
NJBIZ reporter Matthew Fazelpoor contributed to this report.