What Can Employers Do Now that Marijuana Use is Legal in California?


What Can Employers Do Now that Marijuana Use is Legal in California?

Speaker Spotlight with Leonora “Lenny” Schloss, Esq. and Emilia Arutunian, Esq. on office weed policies.

What Can Employers Do Now that Marijuana Use is Legal in California?

What Can Employers Do Now that Marijuana Use is Legal in California?

Cannabis legalization has thrown California employers and HR departments into a mire of complicated questions about office weed policies. Can California employers maintain drug free policies in light of legal marijuana? How do changing attitudes toward recreational drug use impact businesses? What can employers do to maintain safety and a drug free workplace? If you (or your boss) are asking any of these questions, it’s time to find answers. Make plans to join presenters Leonora “Lenny” Schloss or Emilia Arutunian at a PIHRA 2020 Legal Update (SOLD OUT) near you!

Lenny and Emilia will provide takeaways such as:

  • Legal cannabis use and its impact on employee hiring
  • Whether legal marijuana use means you have to allow your employees to be high on the job
  • Lawful policies for a drug free workplace
  • Drug testing – what employers can and can’t do
  • Whether employers must offer leave or reasonably accommodate employees who use cannabis

Lenny and Emilia’s session “What Can Employers Do Now that Marijuana Use is Legal in California?” will inform and entertain. More importantly, business owners and HR pros will gain practical tools to navigate business implications of legal marijuana in California. In order to dive deeper into this topic with Emilia and Lenny, Baskaran Ambalavanan interviewed the presenters themselves. Read on to learn more about this tricky topic and what you can expect at the PIHRA 2020 Legal Update.

Speaker Spotlight: Leonora “Lenny” Schloss and Emilia Arutunian, Jackson Lewis P.C.

Special thanks to contributing writer and PIHRA Programs Chair, Baskaran Ambalavanan. Baskaran conducted this interview with PIHRA 2020 Legal Update speakers Leonora “Lenny” Schloss and Emilia Arutunian. Lenny will be presenting at the PIHRA 2020 Legal Update in Riverside and Burbank, and Emilia will be presenting in La Jolla and Anaheim.

PIHRA: Marijuana use is now legal. How can California employers maintain effective, legally enforceable drug-free policies?

Lenny Schloss and Emilia Arutunian: Now that recreational marijuana use is legal in California, employers should implement and strictly enforce substance abuse policies. These policies can legally prohibit employees from using or being under the influence of marijuana, including medical marijuana at work. The policies should clearly state that employees are prohibited from being impaired by marijuana. Furthermore, the policies should provide direction to employees and supervisors and assist employees in understanding that activity which is legal under state law may not prevent them from losing their jobs.

We recommend employers delay implementation for 30 days to give employees who choose to use the opportunity to leave. If the employer policy includes testing, it should clearly describe covered drugs and that these are prohibited by state or federal law and describe any applicable exceptions for properly used prescribed or over-the counter medication which do not impair work. Furthermore, if the policy includes testing, it should detail the means of drug testing, testing procedures, and verification of results.

Lastly, the policy should describe means the employer will take to protect employee privacy and medical confidentiality and include an employee acknowledgement of the policy, with an authorization to test.

How is legal Cannabis use impacting hiring and at work as it is related to injury, workers compensation claims etc.?

Lenny Schloss and Emilia Arutunian: As the law currently stands, the legalization of Cannabis use should not impact hiring and work of employees in the workplace. Employers are allowed to continue to prohibit use of marijuana, including medical marijuana at work. Employers can continue drug testing of new hires and of employees under reasonable suspicion of marijuana use. Furthermore, employers are not required to accommodate marijuana use, medical or otherwise. Proposition 64 upholds the right of an employer to maintain a drug free workplace, including a prohibition on marijuana.

We note, the legalization of Cannabis is relatively new, and as this phenomenon becomes more widely socially accepted and new cases come out, the framework of the law may adapt accordingly.

Can CA employers do drug testing for hiring or reasonable suspicion? What they should avoid doing?

Lenny Schloss and Emilia Arutunian: The California law on drug testing is perhaps the most unsettled of any state’s drug- testing law. California drug-testing restrictions are based on judicial decisions balancing employers’ rights to test against employees’ state constitutional right to privacy. In California, employee drug testing programs are regulated primarily by the privacy provision of the state constitution. Unlike most constitutional provisions, California’s protection extends not only to the activities of government but also to private employers. Drug and alcohol testing programs clearly implicate individual privacy rights for both public and private employees. See Hills v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 7 Cal.4th 1 (1994).

However, this does not mean that testing is unlawful. An employer is legally allowed to conduct pre-employment drug testing. Drug testing during employment can be done as part of a physical examination, or if there is reasonable suspicion of use.

How does reasonable accommodation for cannabis-using employees work?

Lenny Schloss and Emilia Arutunian: California employers are not required to provide an accommodation for marijuana use or medical marijuana use. If, however, an employee wants to take time off to participate in a drug rehabilitation program, all employers regularly employing 25 or more employees must accommodate the employee as long as the reasonable accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

Why are you excited to present at the PIHRA 2020 Legal Update?

Lenny Schloss and Emilia Arutunian: Jackson Lewis P.C. is a proud sponsor of PIHRA and is in line with its mission, to engage, elevate and serve the California human resource community. To the extent we can, we would like to share our knowledge and inform the California human resource community of the ever-changing California laws and what employers, through their human resources departments, can do to effectively attempt to avoid claims and lawsuits and focus on running, managing and operating their businesses smoothly and efficiently.

Get fully prepared for 2020

Register for the PIHRA 2020 Legal Update to learn from Emilia Arutunian and Lenny Schloss. You’ll enjoy full meals, network with HR pros, and learn comprehensive law updates from 14 law firms.

Legal Update is SOLD OUT. Pre-order our seminar recorded sessions and learn at your desk!

About Leonora Schloss, Presenter at the PIHRA 2020 Legal Update in Riverside & Burbank

Leonora Lenny Schloss at PIHRA 2020 Legal UpdateLeonora “Lenny” M. Schloss is a Principal in the Los Angeles, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She is the California Leader of the Wage and Hour Internal Audit Subgroup. For more than 25 years, Ms. Schloss has brought her passion and creativity to use in advising and training employers on preventative measures, drafting policies and agreements, conducting wage and hour classification audits and training, and handling employment investigations.

In addition to her advice and counsel practice, Ms. Schloss has substantial experience aggressively defending single plaintiff and class action discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and wage/hour cases in state and federal courts including jury and court trials. Ms. Schloss took a representative class action case to trial resulting in a dismissal of the representative class. That case resulted in a reported decision, which, for the first time, defined minimum wage calculation under California law and how it differs from federal law. Ms. Schloss has successfully asserted the federal enclave doctrine defense and proven lack of state law application in dozens of administrative and court matters, including two reported decisions.

Ms. Schloss is a frequent speaker at human resources and other organizations on minimizing employment law liability and other various employment related topics.

About Emilia Arutunian’s, Presenter at the PIHRA 2020 Legal Update in La Jolla & Anaheim

Emilia Arutunian at PIHRA 2020 Legal UpdateEmilia A. Arutunian is an Associate in the San Diego, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses on representing employers in workplace law matters, including pre-litigation claims and litigation, as well as preventive advice and counseling.

Ms. Arutunian’s family migrated to the United States as refugees due to ethnic and religious persecution after the fall of the Soviet Union. She was six years old at the time. Her unique background has resulted in her authentic interdisciplinary worldview, which has been an asset in her practice. While attending law school, Ms. Arutunian completed an externship with the Honorable Larry Alan Burns, the Chief United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. After graduating law school at 24 years old, she immediately recognized and cultivated her passion for defense litigation.

Ms. Arutunian is an active member of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ROLI), an organization which works to promote justice and economic opportunity around the world. Ms. Arutunian’s focus within ROLI is on the country of Armenia. Ms. Arutunian is also a board member of the San Diego Branch of the Society for Armenian Orphaned Relief, an international organization whose mission is to raise funds to provide humanitarian relief to orphaned Armenian children and adults with disabilities throughout the world. She is a board member of Frederich’s Ataxia Movement, an organization dedicated to fundraising and raising awareness to support scientific research for Frederich’s Ataxia, a neuro-muscular disorder.

Interview Conducted by Baskaran Ambalavanan, MBA, SPHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, PIHRA Programs Chair

Baskaran Ambalavanan, PIHRA Programs ChairBaskaran Ambalavanan, MBA, has more than two decades of HR experience in India, Oman, and the U.S. in both the functional HR and in the HRIS/HR Technology.

He is the Principal of Hila Solutions, LLC, a full-service HR Technology Advisory firm for SMEs. Baskaran earned his MBA from Alliance Manchester Business School, U.K. and also certified in SPHR, SHRM-SCP, GPHR, and PHRca.

He is based in Irvine, California and serving as the Programs Chair for PIHRA and an active volunteer leader in SHRM, IHRIM. In his role as PIHRA Programs Chair, Baskaran is instrumental in curating HR sessions for the PIHRA Legal Update and the California HR Conference. He is responsible for assembling the Task Force that selects California HR Conference speakers.

You can follow Baskaran’s insights on all things technology, HR, leadership, and strategy on Twitter at @baski_LA and LinkedIn


We’re sold out!

Jan 15 – Rancho Mirage (½-Day) | Jan 22 – Riverside | Jan 23 – La Jolla | Jan 28 – Anaheim (SOLD OUT) | Jan 30 – Burbank (SOLD OUT)

Experience a comprehensive California legal update with Professionals In Human Resources Association. In the world of human resources, staying ahead of constantly evolving employment laws and workplace legislation is essential. Thankfully, PIHRA’s most famous flagship program will provide timely information, tips and crucial resources you need. Our expert speakers will help you cut through the complexity, so that you can protect your organization and effectively manage risk. 

→ Pre-Order our 2020 Legal Update Session Recordings! 


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