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More medical marijuana in the workplace, more problems

2016-01-28

The balance between accommodating workers' medical conditions and keeping the workplace safe is one that all employers must keep in mind as marijuana gains traction as a popular treatment choice for a myriad of conditions including chronic pain, says Toronto employment lawyer Barry Goldman.

Health Canada has estimated there could be nearly half a million medical marijuana users by 2024, reports the Canadian Press, noting workplaces across the country are likely to see the issue start cropping up.

“Employers certainly need to be aware of it and update their policies accordingly,” Goldman, a partner with Shibley Righton LLP, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

While employers have a duty to accommodate medical conditions, the accommodation must not cause them to suffer undue hardship, he says.

When determining what constitutes undue hardship, says Goldman, courts will consider a variety of factors including thefinancial difficulty the company would endure and whether accommodating the employee would compromise workplace safety.

“All employee medical conditions must be accommodated to a reasonable extent, but workers’ safety has to come first,” says Goldman. “Those who are operating heavy machinery or driving a transit vehicle cannot be on medical marijuana. Those workers will be accommodated only to the extent of the employers’ reasonable abilities, up to, but not including, the point of undue hardship.”

Every situation must be assessed independently, and may be treated differently, says Goldman, as the ability to accommodate will range depending on the role of the employee and the company.

“If it’s a small two or three-person business and the person is in a key role, the employer might face undue hardship if required to find that employee another, more sedentary, role,” he says. “Large corporations with more jobs, requiring different skills, may be better able to accommodate the employee.”

This story also appeard on advocatedaily.com

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2016-01-28