If you have employees, have you considered how changing laws can impact your business?

We live in Washington, one of two states that recently legalized recreational marijuana. Another 15 states allow medical marijuana.

If you have employees handling dangerous equipment (like a drill or a sawzall) or driving company vehicles or other equipment, have you considered what this can do to your business? For instance,

1. Can you limit the use of drugs before and during work hours?
2. Can employees who have used drugs file a workman’s comp claim if they are injured on the job?
3. What’s your liability if an employee driving a company vehicle (or traveling on company business) gets in a wreck with marijuana still in their system?

It’s easy to argue that marijuana is no different than alcohol, but there are studies that have shown that marijuana can cause task-related impairments for up to 24 hours. So if your employees enjoy a few smokes with their friends on a Sunday afternoon, they won’t be stellar, productive employees on Monday.

Another difference between alcohol and marijuana is that you know when you are alcohol impaired (so I’ve heard). You don’t always know when you are marijuana impaired.

Now there are a truckload of arguments that get made for and against drug policies. I don’t want to get into those arguments, I want to talk about business only.

If you don’t have an employee manual, you are at risk. You have to remember that many of our young people (and not so young people) have bought into the narcissistic entitlement mindset, which means that as a business owner, you need to C.Y.A. (Cover Your Assets). They have a whole different set of values. How dare you require your employees to work 8 hours for 8 hours pay! The very idea!

And there are many state bureaucrats whose sole job is to protect those employees. They aren’t going to protect you – their job is to protect your employees.

Employee manuals should cover a whole range of issues that may come up during your day to day activities. For instance, one reason I frequently remind our readers not to give a Christmas bonus is because of the experience of one of our clients. They’d given bonuses each year based on how profitable they were. But then they had a bad year, and informed their employees that there wasn’t enough money for a Christmas bonus. An employee filed a complaint with the state. And the state held that if the company had regularly given bonuses for Christmas, it was part of the compensation package and the company was required pay a bonus every year. Even if the company was losing money. If this issue is not covered in your employee manual, as a business owner, you’re on your own.

I can’t tell you what to include in your manual on drug use. You need to get help from someone who is well versed in your state laws regarding the rules you have and how they apply to your employees. And every state will have different laws pertaining to and governing this issue. If you work in two states or more, getting on top of this issue should be a top priority.

The world is changing, people are changing. You knew that starting a business would put you at risk, the issue is keeping that risk to a minimum. An employee manual won’t protect you from everything, but it is a good start.

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