Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Specific, Detailed Written Policy Helps Employers Prevent AMMA Issues

The September 23rd post listed the many strict, mandatory requirements the Arizona Drug Testing of Employees Act.  Employers need to know that compliance with all of those mandates is imperative to achieve the benefits the Arizona Legislature made available to employers earlier this year to ease their implementation of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).

While all of the mandatory provisions are important, the requirement contained in Arizona Revised Statutes § 23-4903.04 for a detailed, written policy deserves special emphasis and elaboration.  There are few, if any, employer regulations that are as specific in dictating what the terms of a private workplace policy must and must not contain.

First of all, the written policy cannot just exist on a memo in a Human Resources Department file or in a supervisors’ manual.  The Arizona statute requires that the policy be distributed to every employee subject to testing or made available to employees in the same manner as the employer informs its employees of other personnel practices, including inclusion in a personnel handbook or manual or posting in a place accessible to employees.

The writing must contain a comprehensive statement of the employer’s policy respecting drug and alcohol use by employees.  After the AMMA, crafting this statement can be much trickier than it used to be.  Zero tolerance policies that make termination of employment a mandatory consequence of a Qualified Patient’s (QP) use of medical marijuana in compliance with the AMMA would violate the voter-approved law.  

Employers instead should consider a more complex statement of policy that prohibits use of alcohol or drugs on the premises or at any time that would result in the worker being impaired during work hours.  Medical marijuana needs to be addressed separately for workers in safety-sensitive positions.  What positions might qualify as safety-sensitive is a topic for a future post, or, more likely, several of them.

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