Employers May Need to Reconsider Zero Tolerance Marijuana Policies

An article in the National Law Review has noted that employers in many states may want to reconsider their zero tolerance policies when it comes to marijuana use. For many years, even medical marijuana users with state-issued cards were being fired for testing positive for marijuana use, with few repercussions. However, as both medical and recreational use become more common, these stringent policies have become not only outdated, but potential liabilities for employers.

“Zero tolerance” policies refer to policies instituted by certain employers that completely prohibit the use of intoxicating substances, such as opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, and marijuana. To enforce these policies, employers have required their employees to take drug tests, both when seeking employment and at random intervals thereafter. While there have always been exceptions to these policies based on medical need (for example, people on prescription painkillers might test positive for opiates, similar to heroin), even medical marijuana users have previously found themselves fired under zero tolerance policies. Even when they brought lawsuits against their employers for improper dismissal, their complaints were largely dismissed.

With many states, including New York, now legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, enforcing zero tolerance policies with respect to marijuana has become a lot more precarious. Not only are medical marijuana claims now much more likely to succeed in court than they once were, but even firing for recreational marijuana use may be more difficult in any state where it has been legalized. Due to the current legal environment, where the legality of marijuana varies from state to state, employers should take care when and where they choose to enforce zero tolerance, because not every state may be so accommodating of these policies as they once were.

If you have been denied employment or were fired as a result of allegedly violating an employer’s zero tolerance policy, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 39 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steve Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000.

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