Many states that provide employment protections for cannabis users have exceptions for workers in safety-sensitive roles. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) turned to labor and employment partner Mary Will for insight on the impact of evolving marijuana laws in the workplace.
“’Safety-sensitive’ generally means that a position involves some aspect of a heightened danger that requires an employee’s full and unimpaired skills and judgment to safely execute his or her job,” explained Will.
However, Will noted that employers should understand that the definition of “safety-sensitive” varies by state, and not all states have such exemptions. Overall, she said that the general intent of the safety-sensitive exceptions is the same, but the specifics vary.
For example, the Iowa Supreme Court recently cautioned employers not to classify all warehouse positions as safety-sensitive. “The case provides a good reminder to employers to assess safety-sensitive positions on a job-by-job basis rather than make blanket designations of groups of employees,” Will said.
In conclusion, Will stated, “Workplace safety is a primary concern for all employers.” She added, “When developing drug-testing policies for safety-sensitive roles, employers should devote time and resources to an audit of the specific tasks involved in all jobs that may be safety-sensitive.”