Our leading expert has some words of wisdom for worried employers
Come October, recreational marijuana will be legalized in Ontario. And whilst it’s good news for many, the new legislation has employers scratching their heads and worrying over potential troubles in their organizations.
To help mediate your panic, we spoke to Daryl Cukierman, partner at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP and speaker at our upcoming Employment Law Masterclass, who revealed what employers have been asking.
“We’re getting a lot of organizations coming to us to in regards to the legalization – it’s a hot topic at the moment, mainly because there are still so many unanswered questions looming. One aspect people seem to be focusing on is what action they themselves should be taking internally – namely, updates to policies and procedures.
“The starting point for employers here is to be clear with employees on all expectations going forward. This is the ideal opportunity to update your current drug and alcohol policies, ensuring they’re both up to date and clear in their terms, or even craft entirely new policies.”
This may sound simple enough, but the complexities around the new legislation can be difficult to manage. A survey conducted by the HRPA found that 71% of employers did not feel ready for marijuana legalization – which Daryl believes is well-founded.
“The policies you should be reviewing and updating, as appropriate, should be related to possession and use of cannabis in the workplace,” continued Daryl. “For instance, consider emphasizing that the legality of recreational cannabis does not alter a policy that otherwise prohibits the possession or use of cannabis in the workplace.”
The general theme is to be clear on employer expectations. Specifically, expectations around the relationship between cannabis use and the workplace. “And those expectations have to be clearly communicated to workers, and which again leads to updating and reviewing policies as needed,” continued Daryl.
“One of the other points I emphasize is to make sure all loop holes in such policies are closed – as soon as possible. What we, for example, are seeing are policies prohibiting “illegal” drugs in the workplace. But come October marijuana won’t be classified as illegal. Think about how you’ll need to alter your language in existing employee policies. There’s a risk that any confusing language could be interpreted wrongly by employees, allowing for transgressions down the road.”
Daryl explained that a lot of employers are voicing concerns around how best to draft new drug and alcohol policies, and also raising questions around accommodation in the workplace, taking into consideration all the confusing legal jargon at play. If you want to ensure your organization is fully protected against the new legalization, Daryl will be speaking about this at HRD Canada’s Employment Law Masterclass in Toronto, on September 10.
Other topics that Daryl identified as ‘high risk’, that he’ll also be speaking on during his Masterclass session, include dealing with drug testing, navigating marijuana use as a disability, and prohibiting smoking in the workplace.