Marijuana usage bill raises safety concerns for employers
Friday, February 15, 2019
Employers testing employees for marijuana and harassment in the workplace remain at the forefront of workplace legislation conversations.
House Bill 2655 addresses the same issues as Senate Bill 379, making it unlawful for employers to prohibit employees from using legal substances, including marijuana.
Proponents said the purpose of the bill is to allow people to use marijuana when not at work. Proponents additionally cite heavy cannabis use by people who aim to replace opioids with marijuana as well as people suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and say drug testing by employers unfairly targets low-income workers.
Opponents counter that as of now there is no way to test how recently an individual has used the drug and that it is unlawful to coerce employers into tolerating cannabis use. Opponents argue the exemption for bona fide occupational requirements are not broad enough to include all employment areas that involve work with heavy machinery, tools and construction and therefore there are many safety concerns.
Victims of harassment and organizations representing the workforce testified Tuesday, Feb. 12, on SB 726, the workforce harassment bill. Proponents told the Senate Workforce Committee that the bill does not seek to change the definition of harassment and discrimination, merely how the victim experiences reporting the harassment.
Proponents of the bill argued that the power imbalance between supervisors and employees needs to be addressed, that the extension of the statute of limitations to seven years was necessary to allow victims time to process and come forward, and that employees should not be prevented from returning to work once they make a complaint.
Thoughtful testimony highlighted concerns regarding people not connected to the harassment being held accountable for someone else’s actions and the legitimacy of an extended statute of limitations.