By: Barbara Wells
Now that Governor Ivey has signed the Compassion Act into law, employers may be wondering what this law means for them. After all, about a dozen states that have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes have also passed laws protecting employees who legally obtain prescriptions and use medical cannabis outside work hours. Not so in Alabama.
The Compassion Act goes out of its way to be as pro-employer as possible. For example:
- Employers may continue to refuse to hire individuals who use medical cannabis regardless of whether or not they are impaired from that use.
- Employers may discipline or discharge employees who test positive for marijuana. This is true even if the employees have valid prescriptions for medical cannabis and show no signs of impairment in the workplace.
- Employees using medical cannabis have no right under Alabama law to demand an employer to accommodate or allow the use of medical cannabis. This matters because as long as federal law defines use and possession of marijuana illegal, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not count medical cannabis like it does other medications and the ADA’s required reasonable accommodation does not come into play.
- Employers can continue to enforce existing drug testing programs or even establish a new drug testing policy.
- Employers may legally adopt a policy requiring employees to notify the employer if an employee possesses a medical cannabis card.
- Employers are not required to reimburse employees for the costs associated with the use of medical cannabis.
- This law goes out of its way to explicitly reject the notion that provision in it could be used to create any legal action of any sort against an employer for refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining or taking any adverse employment action due to the use of medical cannabis.
Some employers may decide to put different policies in place, but they are not legally required to do so. For now, Alabama has elected to provide protection to employers. So while Alabama workers may be able to obtain prescriptions for marijuana in the future, the use of those prescriptions may not be without adverse consequences to existing or potential employment.
If you have questions about what to do with your business or company during the COVID-19 pandemic, call Capell & Howard at 334-241-8000 and ask for one of our employment lawyers: Christopher Weller, Barbara Wells, Brooke Lawson, Carla Cole Gilmore, Mai Lan Isler, or Blake Brookshire. Or, visit our web page at www.chlaw.com for contact info and the latest alerts.
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