New year, new drug testing policies. The EBI Screening News Weekly Wrap presented by Jennifer Gladstone features three stories about the effects substance use is having on employers. Even one of our military branches is involved. Plus, a major U.S. company takes a tough stance on a legal substance – will others follow suit in 2020?
Read on for the answers.
Pot Policies Changing
On New Year’s Day, Nevada became the first state to officially ban most pre-employment marijuana screening, but the new law is causing confusion among employers and applicants.
Nevada allows anyone over 21 to buy and use pot. Nevada Assembly Bill 132 essentially states job seekers who smoke weed recreationally or for medical reasons can’t be denied a job for using a legal substance on their own time.
But, as Rebecca Roberts, Vice President and General Manager of Occupational Health Services Group at EBI says, this law does not mean employers have to accept drug use in the workplace – it ONLY means an applicant cannot be disqualified during the hiring process.
“It is critical for employers to evaluate and update their drug-free workplace policies in light of these changing laws. A comprehensive policy ensures an employer can make decisions quickly and consistently.”
Employers are still allowed to have drug-free policies and can require drug testing once someone is employed. Employees can be fired for showing up to work under the influence. Research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports 30% of people who use marijuana may have something called marijuana use disorder, where they become dependent on weed, but not necessarily addicted to it (although that can happen in severe cases). Researchers estimated 4 million people nationwide met the criteria for marijuana use disorder in 2015.
As EBI has previously reported, substance abusers are more likely to be late or absent, are less productive, and are much more likely to be involved in a workplace accident. They are also more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim. The National Safety Council says employers should make substance screening part of their health plan, a sentiment echoed by Roberts.
“Employers should consider alternative specimens when updating their drug-free workplace policies, so if they are testing for post-hire (random, reasonable suspicion, etc.) the window of detection demonstrates recent use.”
Nevada’s law makes exceptions for positions in law enforcement, firefighting, EMTs, people who drive for a living, and any position an employer deems safety-sensitive. All other employers in the state will need to do a review of their hiring policy considering the new regulations.
Have questions about drug testing? EBI’s “Ask an Expert” can help! Submit your question and we may feature it in an upcoming segment.
Smoking Out Tobacco
At a time when many employers are debating the importance of pre-employment marijuana testing, one nationwide company is taking a stronger stance on a legal substance. U-Haul, the moving company with the ubiquitous orange-striped trucks, has announced it will no longer hire anyone who uses tobacco or nicotine products. The nicotine-free policy goes into effect February 1st; workers hired before that date will be grandfathered in.
"We are deeply invested in the well-being of our Team Members. Nicotine products are addictive and pose a variety of serious health risks. This policy is a responsible step in fostering a culture of wellness at U-Haul, with the goal of helping our Team Members on their health journey."
-Jessica Lopez, U-Haul chief of staff
U-Haul says the goal is to make its 30,000 employees one of the healthiest workforces in the country. The rule is enforceable in 21 states; other states do not allow companies to smoke out tobacco users.
The policy doesn’t just ban current smokers. It also bans nicotine products – former smokers who use gum, patches, or even electronic cigarettes to help them break the habit will be turned away. However, some experts warn this type of policy teeters on discrimination.
At least two other notable employers, Cleveland Clinic and the city of Dayton, Ohio, have implemented a similar policy and stopped hiring smokers.
The policy will be clearly stated on all U-Haul applications and job seekers must consent to be screened. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say smoking is the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease.
ICYMI: All these changes to substance testing laws, policies, and hiring rules have you confused? Get help from EBI, where we put Customer Care first. Read how we do it.
No Marijuana for Mariners
Scenario: You live in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. You also like to take the boat out on weekends. Can you toke on your boat?
If you’re operating your boat, you’re still subject to your state’s OUI or DUI laws. It’s illegal to be under the influence of alcohol or any other controlled substance while operating a motorized vehicle.
Why are we mentioning this now?
Because the Coast Guard is dramatically increasing the number of boaters, charters, and maritime crewmembers who must submit to random drug testing this year. For the last six years, 25% of all mariners in safety-sensitive positions were required to be tested for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, semi-synthetic opioids, P-C-P and opiates. During most of that time, fewer than 1-percent of all tests came back positive. Now, after a second consecutive year of positive rates above the 1-percent mark, the Coast Guard is raising the number of mandatory random tests to 50-percent.
This change impacts a spectrum of mariners, from fishing guide charters to cruise and shipping captains. The Coast Guard manages maritime screening and enforces drug testing policy. For example, the Coast Guard can request a shipping company randomly drug test its workforce. If an employee tests positive, that employee must be reported to the Coast Guard and be removed from a safety-sensitive position.
If a mariner has a prescription to show legitimate medical need for the drugs, their employer will get a clear report. Maritime trade associations say the change is welcome and will help them cut costs while maintaining drug-free workplaces.
The bottom line is don’t smoke weed on a boat if you’re operating it, or working in a safety-sensitive position on one. One positive test, and you’re sunk.