Legal expert explains latest changes as New York City eliminates recreational cannabis in the workplace



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ALBANY, NY (NEWS10) – As New York’s recreational marijuana laws continue to take shape, employers must get used to putting away their assumptions about when and if their employees choose to smoke.

“For example, the smell of marijuana persists, but it’s no longer a probable cause,” says Christine Taylor, partner at Towne Law Firm. “It was the knee-jerk reaction to say to yourself, you obviously use, I don’t want to use you anymore, and that can absolutely get you in trouble now.”

Taylor holds educational seminars where she advises employers on how to proceed in a fast-paced environment. The last update by the NYS Department of Labor categorically bans employers from testing marijuana whether during hiring or when suspected an employee is intoxicated.

“Marijuana stays in your system for so long, but now, for example, some people had a policy that if someone was injured on the job, you had to immediately take a drug test and if you reported the marijuana. , they would fire immediately. you. You can’t do it anymore, because a simple positive test for marijuana in your system is not enough anymore, ”she explains to NEWS10 ABC’s Mikhaela Singleton.

She further explains that such quick judgments could put an employer in the hot water in some cases of discrimination.

“Maybe some of the disability symptoms could overlap with some of the symptoms of some disabilities and you need to be careful with that,” she says.

“In addition, because the law guarantees the radiation [select marijuana convictions] and not just sealed files, as a person applying for a job you no longer need to report it as it did not exist, for all intents and purposes. As an employer, just as you wouldn’t discriminate against people for other reasons, you should also keep this in general terms. Are they still good employees? Taylor explains further.

However, that doesn’t mean safety standards are out the window. Taylor advises employers to document everything.

“You have to have articulable symptoms, that’s what the law says, which means you have to actually be weakened to the point that you can no longer perform the duties of your job,” Taylor said. “The best thing to do is make a report and have witnesses of this person being unable to do their job either up to the standards you set so that they don’t meet the job requirements or that it endangers other people. “

“This is how you are a good employer, it is meeting these standards, clearly expressing your expectations. If they are unable to meet your safety standards or their work standards, it does not matter if it is impairment of faculties by weed, alcohol or anything else, ”she continues. explaining.

And while abstaining from marijuana may not be a condition of employment, there can still be rules surrounding what happens in the workplace.

“There are no ‘weed-free offices’ so to speak. You can’t restrict what people do in their personal time. Their breaks and all of that is still considered work time so to speak, so yeah, you can say no, you can’t bring marijuana into that office, for example, ”she said.

She also adds that there are caveats about new laws allowing recreational marijuana, for example in the case of federal jobs like the post office or contractors like GE.

“Because marijuana is still federally illegal, you can still test in these cases or set additional restrictions,” says Taylor.

The best advice is to become an informed employer and employee.

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