Washington Employers: Marijuana Legalization In Washington State Won’t Prevent Workplace Drug Tests

WASHINGTON: Misinformation about the legalization of marijuana in Washington State could result in termination, if an employee tests positive for a drug test in a company that has a zero-tolerance drug policy. Employer’s zero tolerance drug policies are not affected by the new law.

“Legal recreational and medical use of marijuana does not give employment protections to employees who fail employer drug tests,” according to Kara Craig an attorney who specializes in employment and labor law issues for Washington Employers, the region’s largest HR consulting organization. “Drug testing focused on ‘any detectable level’ will remain enforceable for pre-employment, reasonable suspicion or post-accident situations.”

Employers remain liable for failure to provide a safe workplace leaving no change to employment terms including drug policies. “Use of marijuana remains a crime under Federal Law,” Ms. Craig said, “so it is not illegal to terminate an employee that engages in unlawful activity in violation of company drug policy.”Indeed, zero tolerance drug policies must remain in place where OSHA and other federal laws regulate safety for tools, machines, vehicles, hazardous substances and in other ‘safety sensitive’ workplaces. Legalization of marijuana in Washington State will not prevent termination of an employee by an employer subject to the federal Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988 or other federal laws governing workplace safety.

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