By Yvette Farnsworth Baker, Esq., Senior Legal Consultant at Current Consulting Group (CCG)
This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.
One of the most alarming current trends in workplace drug testing law is legislation that prohibits employers from disciplining for a positive marijuana test. Marijuana use by employees raises valid and pressing concerns related to safety, productivity, and healthcare. Rather than simply reacting to legislation and rule change that is detrimental to workplace drug testing programs, our industry should also be engaged in proactive solutions by advocating for better laws and regulations. Are state legislators hearing from employers and the drug testing industry when they consider marijuana protection? Because they assuredly are hearing from the marijuana lobby. If we are not providing data and viewpoints from our side of the issue, legislators are making decisions with a skewed perspective on what their constituents want and need. To ensure that our voices are heard, we should be actively engaged in shaping the conversation and providing the necessary information to legislators.
Marijuana Impairment in the Workplace is a Serious Concern
First and foremost, it is important to recognize that marijuana use can have a significant impact on employees’ ability to perform their jobs safely and effectively. In safety sensitive workplaces, even slight impairment can have grave consequences for worker safety. Employers in all industries should be concerned about the potential legal liabilities that could arise due to an impaired employee.
As employers face increased restrictions on drug testing, particularly for recreational marijuana, it becomes increasingly clear that the needs of employers are being drowned out by the call for more drug legalization. In recent years, this increased call for legalization has included the argument that employers should be restricted from disciplining employees for marijuana use. However, employers and the drug testing industry have not been vocal enough to legislators with the counterargument that marijuana impairment in the workplace is a serious concern. Legislators are making decisions to restrict employers’ ability to maintain a safe and effective workplace without hearing from employers themselves.
How to Effectively Advocate to Legislators
The biggest roadblock may be simply that our industry is not accustomed to reaching out to legislators on the issue of marijuana legalization or workplace drug testing laws, but it is an easy fix. Advocating to legislators can be very straightforward with just some thought and preparation.
The easiest way to reach out to legislators is to write a letter. A physical letter is more effective than an email, as it is more memorable and more likely to end up on the desk of the legislator rather than read only by a staffer. Email is another option however and can still be effective.
An effective letter or email will have personal memorable details that make it stand out from form emails. Write about your personal experiences with drug testing or with impaired workers, or stories that have been related to you from other employers. Explain what is at stake for your company or your client’s companies with impaired workers on the job. Discuss the difficulties employers face when workplace drug testing is restricted. You may also want to include the safeguards in place with testing programs that protect workers, such as confidentiality, cut-off levels, use of a Medical Review Officer (MRO), written policies with notice provided to all employees, etc.
Even more effective than a letter is a meeting with your legislators. You may be surprised at how easy it is to schedule an appointment to meet in-person or virtually. An email or phone call to a legislator’s office to request a meeting is often very welcomed. Explain who you are and that you would like to meet with the legislator to discuss future or pending legislation relevant to your occupation. Meeting face-to-face with lawmakers can have a tremendous impact on their views.
I have a friend who is a local businessowner in my town who wrote a letter to his federal Congresswoman, and it so impressed her that she read his letter on the floor of Congress in Washington, DC. This led to a brief television news interview with him on the relevant issue that concerned him. This friend does not have a background in lobbying or even in persuasive writing or public speaking, but his advocacy made an impact of his Congresswoman. One personal letter led to a chance to influence legislation and public opinion on an issue that mattered to him.
Schedule some time in your day to reach out to your state legislators. Remember that workplace drug testing is generally a state law issue, so take a look at who your state legislators are if you are not familiar with them. Then take some time to write a letter, reach out with a phone call, or schedule a meeting to tell them about your thoughts on workplace drug testing, particularly marijuana impairment. If you need help with data to support your positions, reach out to the team at Current Consulting Group at [email protected]. We would be happy to get you the information you need to pursue this critical issue.
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