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Medical marijuana has been legalized in several states including Rhode Island (RI). This has raised a controversy concerning employment policies in organizations. Most companies believe that a drug test is necessary for every employee as people who abuse drugs may not work effectively. According to various researchers, marijuana has been effective in the treatment of various diseases and at the same time employees tend to misuse the drug, claiming that, after all, it has been legalized (Chang 54). This paper is based on study results of two phone interviews conducted by human resource managers of The Beadery Company and CVS Health Corporation.
Workers who abuse drugs may not be able to fulfill their duties sucessfully (Chang 54). For instance, people who overuse marijuana show a tendency for causing more accidents than others. Therefore, an employer would prefer to hire a person who is tested negative for marijuana. Employees may feel that they have the right to use the drug in any way they want since it is legal. In the past, people were mainly using marijuana for recreational and enjoyment purposes (Chang 55). However, in the recent decade, studies show that the drug is useful in the treatment of chronic diseases such as HIV, cancer, and other diseases. The legalization of the drug has aroused controversies among those who support and those who oppose its legalization (Chang 54).
The human resource managers were asked whether they did a drug test before hiring their employees. Both managers reported that cannabis drug testing was critical for the hiring process. People who abuse drugs turn out to be unreliable in their duties. They are also likely to cause a lot of accidents and get into conflicts with other employees and the organization in general. The Beadery Company human resource manager claimed that he would not hire a person without a drug test. CVS Health Corporation human resource managers argued that in the health sector was a very important area that required employees to be in a good state of mind. Doctors and other health professionals need to be careful since they deal with human lives. A health professional who abuses marijuana can make wrong prescriptions, causing further complications or even death of a patient. A death caused by the health professional’s negligence puts the organization in danger. It can make the institution lose clients and involve the health professional into a criminal investigation. Since the drug is legalized, health professionals have used it in their treatment procedure in CVS Health Corporation. As reported by the human resource manager, the drug is very effective at treating depression, HIV, and cancer.
The managers were also asked how they dealt with employees who were tested positive. According to CVS Health Corporation, marijuana testing is a long and expensive process. If an employee gets a positive test result, he/she has to undergo further screening to establish whether drug abuse has taken place due to doctor’s prescription or the person has been using it for recreational purposes. Also, the employee has to provide a document from a health professional proving that marijuana is used for medicinal purpose. The human resource manager also claims that the whole testing process is expensive and futile sometimes. Laws in RI have legalized both recreational and medical use of marijuana. Therefore, the employer has no right to dismiss the employee due to its recreational or medical usage. The employer can only fire the employee if he/she is found in possession of the drug in the workplace or he/she is found to be selling the drug in the workplace. The Beadery Company human resource manager argues that the employer can protect himself/herself from the legalization of marijuana by following the federal law that is superior to the state law. Federal laws term usage of marijuana as illegal and in that case the employer can fire the employee who has got a positive test result. The Beadery Company human resource manager argues that the rule of the employment-at- will-doctrine allows employers to dismiss employees for whichever reason.
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The personnel managers were also asked to give examples of cases where they faced the problems associated with medical marijuana legalization. Beadery Company personnel manager gave an example of the employee who applied for a job as an IT manager in his organization. The employee was already tested positive for using medical marijuana. He was asked for a document from a health professional proving that marijuana usage was for medicinal use only. The employee provided the document and he got the job. However, the employee’s performance was not remarkable and the organization could not establish the reason for the poor performance. The employee could report to work late and most of the times he was disorderly. Curious about his behavior, the human resource manager had to evaluate him and in the process his supervisor discovered that the patient had been taking marijuana to the workplace. As a result, the employee was dismissed. Due to this experience, the manager has discovered that most employees who have a medical permit to use the drug sometimes misuse the permission and take the drug even on the working premises.
CVS Health Corporation personnel’s experience was even more extensive. The manager narrated that they had hired an employee who was in possession of marijuana drugs on the working premises. The employee was also under Cannabis Sativa medication that was allowed. The dismissal of the employee did not yield good results as the employee pressed charges against the institution. They had to waste a lot of money to pay the attorney and much time was wasted on following the case. The institution was fined for dismissal since there was not enough evidence to prove that the employee was in possession of marijuana at work. Unlike Beadery Company, CVS Health Corporation personnel manager reported that such cases were not common in the organization.
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The two human resource managers were asked about the challenges of marijuana legalization in regard to their companies. The Beadery Company human resource manager argued that legalization of the drug had not done any good to the company. The drug may be good for the treatment of certain ailment but the legalization has let employees abuse the drug even more now that it has been before. Most employees feel that a drug test is discriminative and should not be carried out. Others believe that drugs used outside the working environment cannot not be considered offensive to the employers. Unlike other drugs, such as alcohol, marijuana could test positive in the blood system even if a person used it six months ago. If employees have been tested positive for a drug that was consumed several days ago, they feel like their employers are interfering with their private lives. Their argument is that the drug was not used within the work environment.
The legalization of medical marijuana has affected employment policies, for example, drug abuse policies in the managers’ companies. The managers in these two institutions emphasize that they need to be abreast of the changes in laws regarding medical marijuana as it keeps changing from time to time. They need to consider the issues while formulating the drug abuse policy. Drug abuse is not allowed in organizations; however, medical and recreational marijuana use has been legalized in several states in the United States. The federal law states that medical and recreational marijuana usage is illegal. However, in states where medical marijuana is legal organizations have to face big challenges as they try to protect their interests and obey the law at the same time. The two managers reported that employees did not like drug screening as they thought it was discriminative. The managers were also asked to give recommendations on how the problem of medical legalization could be solved. CVS Health Corporation personnel manager proposed that organizations had to be given the right to choose whether to employ a person who was registered as a medical marijuana user. She claimed that some patients were employed as registered medical marijuana patients but they destabilized the situation by misusing the drug. Beadery Company human resource manager emphasized the importance of awareness in the institution. Employers should make the drug abuse policy clear to employees before hiring them.
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How Employers Cope with Medical Marijuana
Most of the states that have legalized medical marijuana do not protect employees from disciplinary actions of their employers. However, in Rhode Island, patients are protected from any unfair disciplinary actions of their employers. The medical marijuana law in Rhode Island states that an employer cannot deny an employee a job just because he/she is registered as a medical marijuana patient. If the employees’ marijuana drug test is positive, it does not mean that he/she can no longer perform any task in the institution. The employer has to establish whether the employee can perform the assignment at hand before deciding to hire him/her. The employers should not dismiss employees solely because they have used medical marijuana. It has proved to be more effective than most traditional medicines. Therefore, employers should allow their workers to use it. The patient will stop using the drug after healing. In RI, employers are entitled to the employment-at-will-doctrine. Employers are allowed to fire employees due to specific reasons under this doctrine. However, there are some exemptions that restrict the employers’ actions.
The employment-at-will doctrine is the rule that permits the employer to terminate employment at any time for a particular reason. Similarly, a worker can decide to terminate his/her employment for a specific purpose without any legal penalties. Employment-at-will also give an employer the right to amend terms and conditions of employment. For instance, an employer may decide to review salaries, reduce or terminate benefits. According to Stone (90), the employment-at-will doctrine leaves employees vulnerable to a sudden dismissal or an unannounced pay cut.
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Over the years, the employment-at-will doctrine has evolved and the court has developed exceptions to protect the interests of both an employer and an employee. The first exception is a public policy exception (Stone 95). This exception protects employees from harsh consequences if they refuse to accomplish a task that is prohibited by the law. An example can take place when the employee refuses to commit an offense upon the employer’s request. If a person reports a law violation by his/her employer, he/she is exempted from the rule of the employment-at-will doctrine. Another category of the exception under the public policy is exercising of statutory rights, for instance, making a claim in order to protect state workers. An employer cannot fire an employee under the employment-at-will doctrine if the registered medical marijuana employee decides to file a claim against the institution due to discrimination.
The second exception is an implied contract. the implied contract in this case can be written or oral (Stone 97). A supervisor may provide an oral assurance to an employee. For instance, an employer may promise an employee that they do not discharge workers without giving them an opportunity to correct their behavior. However, even though the law recognizes an implied contract, most employees are unable to provide a proof in case they want to defend themselves. The law could not protect employees who were dismissed upon testing positive if they have not signed any employment contract with their employers or they were unable to produce an oral contract evidence. The third exception is an implied covenant. The implied covenant is applicable to situations where an employee is to be compensated according to the fair deal or a good will. For example, employment-at-will is exempted when an employer fires a worker in order to avoid paying benefits, such as retirement benefits or sales commissions.
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The employment-at-will rule is only limited to those employees that are not protected by an employment contract. Employment-at-will protection applies mainly to those employees who have collective bargaining powers from workers’ unions (Stone 100). However, nonunion workers seldom get this type of protection. Legal guideline regarding employment-at-will is continuously evolving to protect the interests of an employer and an employee. The increasing number of lawsuits regarding wrongful dismissal has led to changes in employment contract clauses. Employers advise their personnel managers not to make any promises regarding terms of termination during the recruitment process. This can leave an employee legally unprotected if he/she is dismissed as a result of the usage of medical marijuana. The results above reflect the existing debate on the importance of medical marijuana and its effects on employment.
Employers face a lot of challenges while deciding to screen or not to screen employees for medical marijuana usage. Analyzing the two interviews, it is evident that employees come with registration cards showing that they use the drug for medicinal purposes only. However, this has not been the case when the employee starts using the drug on the working premises, which is against the law. Other employees abuse the drug rather than using it for medicinal purposes, demonstrating poor job performance. The two organizations reported that employees who used medical marijuana gave poor performance most of the time.
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Employees feel that a marijuana test before employment is not appropriate since the drug can be detected in the body system many months after consumption. They also reckon that drugs consumed away from work should not be considered as offense. Drugs taken a long time ago cannot affect the employee’s performance. Nevertheless, they agree that it is not right to consume drugs while working. The other reason as to why employees do not like drug testing is because they find the whole process demoralizing. As reported by the managers, employees say that the urine collection process in demeaning. Even though the process is painful, the employers have to do it because they need to safeguard the welfare of the organization. Companies need to remain competitive and that can be only achieved by employing competent stuff who will improve rather than lower the performance.
Employers are faced with a dilemma of firing or not a person using medical marijuana. It is against the law for the company to fire the employee and at the same time the employee has no right to jeopardize the welfare of the organization. Workers who consume marijuana are more likely to cause accidents especially if they work in the industrial sphere. Another challenge is that employers have to keep changing their drug abuse policy as the law on medical marijuana is changing from time to time (Hartman 73). Medical marijuana tests are expensive for organizations. The results of such tests may turn out to be positive due to the recreational use of the drug. In such a case, if the employee tests positive, the further test must be done to prove that the drug has been only used for medicinal purposes. The employee should also present a document from a doctor who has given him/her the medication. The whole process takes a lot of time.
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The two organizations are also challenged by the collision of state and federal laws. Businesses that receive grants from the federal government must comply with federal laws. According to federal laws, marijuana use for medical purposes is illegal. In RI, medical marijuana is legal and employees use medical and recreational marijuana even more because they believe it is not wrong since cannabis has been legalized in the state. Employers are left in a dilemma whether to follow state or federal laws. In fact, the federal laws prevail when the two laws collide.
Employers should keep abreast of any changes in the drug policy and the organization should make it clear to all employees (Hoffmann and Ellen 1454). In case when someone has applied for a job, he/she should be given the full drug policy of the organization and make every detail clear before employing the candidate. The drug policy should state directly that the work environment is a drug-free environment for the safety of all employees (Hoffmann and Ellen, 1454). The drug policy should also clarify that any violation of the rules will not be tolerated. The employer should also create a list of all the things that are not acceptable in his/her company. For instance, the list may state that the employee should not possess drug substances in the workplace. The company should also provide guidelines on circumstances under which drug screening may be performed. There should be a description of the whole screening process to avoid demoralization or intimidation of the employees if they are asked to undergo it in the future.
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An organization should state plainly what can happen to the employee or applicant if they violate the drug policy. The consequences should be logical to avoid any confusion in a situation when the drug policy is violated. It should be made clear to candidates applying for a job that if they test positive for marijuana they will not work in the company. The interviewer must inform everyone that their application is turned down on the basis of the federal law that considers marijuana an illegal drug (Hartman 73). Similarly, employees already working in the organization should understand that the organization will subsequently dismiss them if their results turn out to be positive. The employer should ensure that employees and applicants understand every aspect of the drug policy and possible consequences. The employees who accept to abide by this policy should sign the document to prove that they agree with the terms and conditions (Hartman 71).
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