CHAMPAIGN — Planning to indulge in a little soon-to-be-legal weed during your free time?
It may behoove those who are employed to check out their employers’ policies on that.
Some employers will consider off-duty marijuana use none of their business unless it interferes with an employee’s job performance.
Some plan to continue zero-tolerance and drug-free workplace policies that include drug testing.
“Employers are very concerned about safety in the workplace,” said Jay Shattuck, executive director of the Employment Law Council of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
Illinois employers struggling with how to handle the coming of legal recreational marijuana come Jan. 1 should pay attention to these two things, he said: The policies they set for their employees with respect to marijuana use should be both reasonable and non-discriminatory.
On Jan. 1, not only will recreational marijuana be legal, but the paraphernalia to use it will be, too. And Jeremy Sample will be able to start calling the ‘water pipes’ he sells at his new shop, CU Glass Connection, by their better-known name: bongs.
Legal or not, many adults are already using marijuana.
As many as 13 percent of adults use marijuana either occasionally or regularly, and the number is higher — one in four — among younger adults 18-29, according to a Gallup poll last year.
“Employers have had to deal with, not only marijuana, but other illegal drugs in the past, and so their policies and attitudes towards those issues don’t have to dramatically change,” Shattuck said. “If they did drug testing before, they’re going to be able to continue doing it.”
The city of Champaign won’t be changing much in its current drug and alcohol policy. That includes pre-employment drug testing for anyone seeking a permanent job with the city and drug-testing current employees if there is a reasonable suspicion that they’re impaired at work, according to the city’s human resources director, Amanda Farthing.
“Our policy is already focused on the same thing we’re going to focus on Jan. 1, which is making sure our employees are going to come to work and do their jobs effectively,” she said.
The “reasonable suspicion” part of the policy means for those employees who appear to be impaired, “we have the ability to investigate that,” Farthing said.
Generally, as long as employees don’t come to work impaired, “we try not to get involved in their personal lives,” she said.
There are exceptions, however.
City employees required to hold commercial driver’s licenses — for example, snow plow operators — are subject to random drug testing, Farthing said.
Employees covered under collective bargaining agreements are subject to the terms related to drug use, testing and discipline in those agreements.
And employees subject to certification and licensing related to their jobs are responsible for knowing the terms, according to Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Bannon.
The city isn’t adopting a zero-tolerance policy, she said. But there are provisions in current collective bargaining agreements that could prohibit off-duty marijuana use, she said.
Here’s a look at how some other employers in the area will handle legalized marijuana use on the part of their employees:
University of Illinois
Both recreational and medical marijuana are prohibited on campus. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law and remains illegal, regardless of what state law allows, according to the UI’s policy.
Generally, most UI employees who use marijuana off-campus and while they’re not working or on call won’t be subject to discipline unless their job performance is affected, according to Jami Painter, associate vice president and chief human resources officer for the UI system.
“If they are impaired, they may be sent for impairment evaluation, same as now,” she said.
UI police will be prohibited from using marijuana at all times, according to UI Police Lt. Barbara Robbins. That will apply not only to officers but to police employees in safety-sensitive jobs, such as telecommunicators, she said.
Christie Clinic will continue to enforce its drug-free workplace policy, according to Chief Operating Officer Jason Hirsbrunner.
“Christie Clinic employees, students and volunteers working at a Christie Clinic location who are under the influence of cannabis may be sent home and be subject to Christie Clinic’s disciplinary policies, up to and including termination,” he said. “Employees and any volunteers working at Christie Clinic who show impairment due to cannabis use may also be asked to take a ‘Fit for Duty’ assessment that evaluates one’s physical, mental or medical health status in relation to performance of essential job duties. Christie Clinic’s policy is anticipated to be in place by the new year.”
The following is from a statement the Peoria-based system released:
“While the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020, this new law also protects the rights of employers, like OSF HealthCare, to have a drug free workplace.”
Employees who exhibit impaired behavior will be drug-tested, including for the presence of marijuana (THC) metabolite, and those who test positive for any amount of marijuana will be in violation of OSF’s drug-free workplace policy and subject to disciplinary procedures, which could include dismissal, according to OSF.
A temporary policy in effect until June 1 applies to all employes and volunteers of the county and candidates for employment who have been given conditional offers of employment. It spells out the county’s right to implement a reasonable zero tolerance or drug-free workplace policy that is applied in a non-discriminatory manner.
The 12-page policy states Champaign County is limited in its ability to prohibit or restrict the use of cannabis and other substances considered legal under Illinois law by Champaign County employees while off duty and not on call unless those employees perform safety-sensitive functions.
“For employees in safety-sensitive positions — such as those employees who drive commercial motor vehicles, operate or repair heavy or large mobile equipment, police officers, correctional officers and highway maintenance workers — it is reasonable for Champaign County to implement and consistently apply a zero tolerance or drug-free workplace policy that includes a prohibition on off-duty use and to terminate any safety-sensitive employee who violates this policy.”
“Under state law, the legalization of recreational cannabis does not override an employer’s policy to maintain a drug-free environment,” said Carle Enterprise Communications Manager Karen McDevitt.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that no employee, provider, contracted worker at work is under the influence of cannabis and have procedures in place to support this,” she said. “Carle will continue our policy of being a drug-free workplace that provides a safe and productive environment for all employees, patients and visitors.”
City of Urbana
The city has reviewed its current policy on drug and alcohol and believes it’s adequate for the coming of legalized recreational marijuana, according to city Finance Director Elizabeth Hannan.
“Our focus is on expectations as to how employees perform and provide services. We expect employees to comply with rules and conditions that apply to their positions,” she said.
“For non-bargaining employees, we expect that they report to work unimpaired by any substance and prepared to provide our citizens the highest level of public service,” Hannan said.
“For bargaining unit employees, we expect them to abide by the terms of the collective bargaining agreements and any requirements or prohibitions placed on them by state and federal law.”
Champaign school district
The district is in the process of updating all its policies, according to district spokesman John Lyday. The district’s existing drug- and alcohol-free workplace policy has been in effect since 1990.
It prohibits the manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession or use of a controlled substance by an employee on school district property or while performing work for the district.
The policy defines a controlled substance as one that isn’t legally obtainable, one being used in a manner that is different from the one for which it was prescribed, or one that is legally obtainable but wasn’t obtained legally.
“We will be following the laws to a letter, and that’s all I have to say,” said Human Resources Director Jerry Jacobsen.
Clark-Lindsey is still in the process of finishing its policy, and isn’t making it public at this time, according to spokeswoman Karen Blatzer.