The Connecticut legislature has been busy in 2021 and 2022. Approximately twelve months ago, it passed legislation effectively legalizing recreational marijuana under Connecticut state law. Very recently, it amended Connecticut’s employee free speech statute to, among other things, prohibit employers from convening what organized labor often refers to as “captive audience meetings” with employees to address unionization efforts. Also, effective January 1, 2022, many employees became eligible for Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits, and the legislature amended the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CTFMLA) to apply to almost all private sector Connecticut employers.
Several years ago, we helped a mine operator through a difficult accident investigation. During the investigation, a toxicology report was received that indicated the presence of a narcotic in the victim’s bloodstream. There was a great deal of debate with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) about whether the amount identified could have impaired the victim’s motor skills and judgment, possibly contributing to the accident.
A federal district court in Louisiana, in Huber v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida, Inc., recently denied an employer’s motion for summary judgment in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law (LEDL) case, finding, among other things, that accounting for and excusing a false positive drug test resulting from extended cannabidiol (CBD) use may be a reasonable accommodation.
The last few years have provided numerous reasons for employers to reevaluate drug testing practices—from the rapid development of job protections for medical and recreational marijuana use, to the increase in drug testing-based litigation, to pandemic-related remote work, to staffing challenges. Ogletree Deakins’ April 2022 report, Strategies and Benchmarks for the Workplace: Ogletree’s Survey of Key Decision-Makers, provides a sense of how many employers are changing their drug testing practices and the kinds of changes they are making.
A bill recently introduced in the California Assembly proposes to prohibit discrimination against employees who use cannabis off the job. The legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) No. 2188, would amend California’s employment antidiscrimination law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and make it an unlawful practice for an employer to discriminate against an adult applicant or employee based upon the “person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace.”
On March 25, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found the Indiana State Board of Nursing violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it refused to allow a nurse taking medicine prescribed to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) from participating in the Indiana State Nursing Assistance Program (ISNAP).
Rarely are we able to combine the Grateful Dead and Mississippi in the same sentence, but the band once said, what a long strange trip it’s been.
On January 1, 2022, Philadelphia’s ordinance, titled, “Prohibition on Testing for Marijuana as a Condition for Employment,” Phila. Code § 9-5500, et seq., will take effect. The ordinance—which was passed by the Philadelphia City Council on April 22, 2021, and signed into law by Mayor Jim Kenney on April 28, 2021—states that in the City of Philadelphia it “shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer, labor organization, employment agency or agent thereof” to require a prospective employee to submit to pre-employment marijuana testing as a condition of employment.
Since it was passed in 1998, Iowa’s Drug-Free Workplaces Act has been one of the most comprehensive and complex drug-testing statutes in the United States. On June 25, 2021, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a pair of decisions—Dix v. Casey’s General Stores, Inc. and Woods v. Charles Gabus Ford, Inc.—that provide an in-depth analysis of the requirements that Iowa’s drug testing statute impose on employers and the level of compliance that employers must achieve to conduct enforceable testing.
As we previously reported, on February 22, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA), which, among other things, legalized the recreational use of marijuana in New Jersey for adults age 21 and older. In addition, CREAMMA imposed on employers certain obligations with respect to marijuana and the workplace, including certain antidiscrimination and drug testing provisions.
On August 5, 2021, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held for the first time that Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) allows an employee to sue his or her employer for taking an adverse employment action based on the employee’s status as a certified user of medical marijuana.
On April 21, 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed into law House Bill No. 2312 and Senate Bill No. 1406, moving the date of recreational marijuana legalization in Virginia up to July 1, 2021. The legalization movement, which has increased in momentum in the Commonwealth since Democrats gained a majority in the legislature, culminated in February 2021, when the General Assembly passed recreational legalization measures with an effective date of January 2024.
On May 6, 2021, the Alabama legislature approved a medical marijuana legalization bill. Senate Bill (SB) 46, more commonly known as the Darren Wesley ‘Ato’ Hall Compassion Act, will now go to Governor Kay Ivey for final approval. Governor Ivey has not indicated that she will veto the bill, although a spokesperson for Governor Ivey has stated that she “look[s] forward to thoroughly reviewing it.”
States have been busy when it comes to marijuana laws. Before the mid-2010s, employers tended not to worry about state marijuana laws because of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law. However, those days are over, and state marijuana legalization laws continue to affect how employers can run their workplaces.
On March 31, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which legalizes the adult recreational use of marijuana and revises Section 201-d of the New York Labor Law. The MRTA’s antidiscrimination employment provisions took effect immediately.
In November 2020, voters in five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) voted in favor of legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana. Since then, there have been several developments within the marijuana legalization world that employers may want to keep an eye on as they move forward in 2021.
Last November, South Dakota voters approved Amendment A, which allowed for the recreational use of marijuana by individuals 21 years and older (and for possession of up to 1 ounce). On February 8, 2021, a South Dakota judge granted summary judgment in favor of law enforcement officers who filed a lawsuit on behalf of Governor Kristi Noem challenging Amendment A.
On February 22, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA). Among other things, the 240-page measure legalizes the recreational use of marijuana for adults age 21 and older and—unfortunately for employers—places significant burdens on companies doing business in New Jersey with respect to marijuana and the workplace.
Now that the inauguration has passed and the Biden administration has begun its work, it is a good time for retailers to take stock of the labor and employment issues that are likely to assume prominence in 2021, and to consider preparing to meet the challenges each of these issues pose. In no particular order, below are the top 10 issues that are likely to keep retail employers up at night in 2021.
Employers can expect an active 2021 Connecticut General Assembly since the 2020 legislative session was cut short. (The session lasted a little over a month before it was suspended on March 12, 2020, due to the pandemic and then officially adjourned on May 6, 2020.)
We would all be excused for wanting 2020 to disappear in a fog of medical marijuana. In case you missed it, here’s a recap of a very busy year for Ogletree Deakins Drug Testing Practice Group.
In November 2020, the Common Council for the City of Madison, Wisconsin, passed ordinances decriminalizing the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis or cannabis derivatives within city limits.
In Harrisburg Area Community College v. Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, No. 654 C.D. 2019, (October 29, 2020), the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently examined the interaction between Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). Specifically, the court addressed whether the PHRA’s prohibition against disability discrimination required a college to accommodate a student’s lawful use of medical marijuana under the MMA.
Oregon voters approved two groundbreaking measures in the 2020 election season to become the first state in the nation to decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of certain controlled substances (Measure 110) and legalize the therapeutic usage of psilocybin in a controlled therapy setting (Measure 109). Many employers may be wondering what these measures mean and how their workplaces and existing employment policies might be impacted.
On November 3, 2020, five states had initiatives on the ballot to legalize the recreational and/or medical use of marijuana, and all five initiatives easily passed. Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey voted in favor of legalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana for adults aged 21 years and older. In addition, South Dakota became the first state to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana at the same time. Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana. Employers may want to consider the impact of these new laws, as well as watch for new developments.
On November 3, 2020, Arizona voters decisively approved Proposition 207, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, to legalize recreational marijuana. As a result of the election, both medical and recreational marijuana are officially legal in Arizona.
On September 25, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania became the first federal court in the Third Circuit to rule that Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) allows an employee to bring a private lawsuit against his or her employer for taking an adverse employment action “solely on the basis of such employee’s status as an individual who is certified to use medical marijuana.”
At the end of 2019, we urged employers to keep an eye on a new recreational marijuana legalization voter initiative in Arizona: the Smart and Safe Arizona Act. Although many employers have been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, they may want to be aware that the Arizona Secretary of State has officially certified the Smart and Safe Arizona Act as one of two voter propositions on the November 2020 ballot. In addition to approving the initiative, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has also published arguments for and against the measure.
In the past several years, marijuana legalization has become an increasingly difficult issue for employers to navigate. Marijuana legalization raises challenging workplace questions related to drug testing, disability accommodation, workplace safety, hiring, and employment termination, among other issues. Because of the fast-evolving nature of marijuana laws, and the wide variance in laws and protections from state to state, employers have struggled to keep up.
It is established that an employee’s drug addiction may qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), provided the employee is not currently using illicit substances. In the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Technical Assistance Manual on the Employment Provisions (Title I) of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC states that “[p]ersons addicted to drugs, but who are no longer using drugs illegally and are receiving treatment for drug addiction or who have been rehabilitated successfully, are protected by the ADA from discrimination on the basis of past drug addiction.” While the EEOC’s nonregulatory pronouncements do not have the force of law, courts addressing the issue generally have adopted this position.