By Roy Strasburger
Originally Published in CSP Magazine
One of an employer’s main expectations is that staff be mentally alert and aware of the environment around them. The employee can enhance the safety of the business and the people in the store. He or she can also sense when the extra effort is needed to turn a disgruntled customer into a loyal fan.
But an individual’s performance can be compromised if he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It can create a dangerous situation for the person and those in the vicinity, given the person’s slower reaction times and impaired decision-making.
The legalization of recreational marijuana in several states has created a complicated employment situation. How does an employer determine whether an employee is under the influence of marijuana? A legal user of marijuana can have traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, in their bloodstream for up to seven days after ingesting marijuana.
To complicate matters, the amount of THC in the blood- stream and the length of time it can be detected will vary based upon how the marijuana was consumed (via smoking, edibles, tinctures, etc.), how potent the marijuana is and how often the person uses it. For someone who is a regular smoker, it takes higher levels of THC for them to become impaired.
While current tests can show whether someone has used marijuana, they cannot show whether someone is impaired. In a state where marijuana con- sumption is legal, having traces of THC in the blood system is not illegal. However, tests may give a false positive if they show that there is THC in the system long after the effects of ingesting it have worn off.
So how does a company enforce a policy of not being high while on duty? The best available methods are subjective tests based upon a person’s behavior and their response to various stimuli. To be conclusive, these tests should be performed by someone who has been thoroughly trained in testing and evaluating the responses. Most law-enforcement officers have this type of training, but c-store personnel typically do not.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), there are three major steps that management should take if they suspect an employee is under the influence of marijuana:
- Document any complaints that have been made about the employee’s behavior or performance. Question the witnesses about what they saw or heard to make sure you have the most detailed information possible.
- Have two members of management observe the employee’s behavior to determine whether it is abnormal. They should document the appearance of the employee’s eyes and face, as well as his or her speech, emotions, odors, actions and inactions. If the employee appears to be impaired, management should immediately remove the person to a safe area.
- If both observers agreed that the employee appears to be impaired, they should meet with him, share the complaints and, to rule out the possibility of a violation of the company’s drug policy, explain that they are going to have the employee take a drug test. The company should arrange transportation for the employee to the testing facility.
If the test comes back negative, the employee should be put back on duty. If the test results come back positive, the employer should follow its company policy for drug and alcohol violations.
While the SHRM guidelines give us guidance, it is still a very gray area. There is a difference between being “buzzed” and “stoned”; where the employee falls in that spectrum will be determined by their behavior and their responses.
The best strategy is to inform employees about your drug and alcohol policies in advance, keep an open mind in the event of an incident, and follow your policy if there is an infraction.
Roy Strasburger is the President of StrasGlobal. For 35 years StrasGlobal has been the choice of global oil brands, distressed assets managers, real estate lenders and private investors seeking a complete, turn-key retail management solution from the most experienced team in the industry.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.