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Wrongful termination: Will deregulation of marijuana be an issue?

With the talks of marijuana being further deregulated by the government, it will be more accessible to employees, and it might soon be an issue in British Columbia workplaces. Cannabis is consumed in different manners (including in the form known as marijuana), and how employers manage cannabis use by employees may determine whether they will face wrongful termination lawsuits. The details of imminent legislation to allow cannabis use will have to be carefully studied by employers to avoid the costs of such litigation.

In 2015, an employee of a logging company smoked marijuana during his breaks for pain relief as part of his management of pain caused by cancer. However, he failed to disclose this to his employer, and when marijuana was found in his truck after a collision with a moose, he was fired. The worker regarded this as wrongful termination and filed a complaint alleging human rights violations. In a subsequent lawsuit, the employer contended that the employee was an operator of dangerous equipment and impairment by marijuana was life-threatening.

In another case, an employee who suffered seizures obtained the necessary certification for medical marijuana use and informed his employer as required. When the company officials received this disclosure, they failed to investigate the workers' condition, and considered no accommodation but instead concluded that there was no place for an employee who has seizures and smokes marijuana. His employment was promptly terminated, and the employee filed a complaint.

British Columbia business owners who face similar problems -- or those who want to be prepared for such circumstances -- can get the necessary guidance from a lawyer with specific experience in the field of employment law. A financial impact of a wrongful termination lawsuit on the bottom line can be damaging for any business. A lawyer may suggest manners in which employees can be engaged during the investigation and accommodation-consideration process as an alternative to termination.

Source: cos-mag.com, "A brief history of marijuana in the workplace", Sept. 24, 2017

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