Medical Marijuana Privacy?

We have had a few complaints of an employee smelling of marijuana (not appearing under the influence, just the odor). We called him into the office and he told us he has a medical marijuana card for arthritis.

We asked him to address the odor. How should we respond to employees' complaints? Since it is for medical use, I would assume it could be considered a HIPAA violation to tell them he has a card.

Any input on this type of situation would be great! - Kelsey

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  • Hello Kelsey! I have a few thoughts. 

    1. From the legal side - Employers in Ohio are free to make hiring, firing, promotion, and demotion decisions based on medical marijuana use as long as they are according to existing company policy. No Ohio employer is required to tolerate or accommodate the use, possession, or sale of marijuana at the workplace. 

    2. From the tight labor market perspective - if your policy does not require action from the above, and you as an employer are comfortable with the knowledge of his use, I think you made the right choice by communicating the need not to bring odor or use into the workplace.

    3. I wouldn't discuss the case details with his peers, but you may report that you have addressed the issue with him and that it has been resolved. However, you must follow up on the problem quickly if it continues.

    Many employers are taking a lax approach to marijuana usage, with national trends gearing toward legalization.

    Your drug use policy should guide your steps and help you set precedence.

    Best of luck!

    Chadwick Klein, SHRM-SCP

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