Oregon Grapples with the Fine Line of a Drug-Free Workplace

There's an interesting court case in Oregon that has piqued the interest of the small business community.

The case before the Oregon Supreme Court addresses whether an employer should be held liable for unlawful employment practices. In Emerald Steel Fabricators v. Bureau of Labor and Industries of the State of Oregon, the employer chose not to hire a temporary drill-press operator as a full-time employee after the worker disclosed that he would not be able to pass a drug test because he uses medical marijuana to treat his anxiety, nausea, cramps and vomiting. Oregon has a law on the books allowing medical marijuana use.

Lower courts favored the worker and said the employer was liable for discharging the temp worker because of his disability and for failing to accommodate the disability. The drill-press operator performed satisfactorily, according to the shop foreman. The operator used marijuana one to three times a day and never used marijuana at work or while on the employer's property.

The National Federation for Independent Business has filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the state supreme court to overrule the lower court's decision. The association says that employers have a right to maintain a drug-free workplace and should not be forced to make accommodations for workers that use marijuana pursuant to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.

"Requiring employers to accommodate patients who use marijuana compromises an employer's ability to provide employees and the public with a safe workplace," said Karen Harned, executive director of NFIB's legal center. "Further, impaired employees miss more work than their drug-free coworkers and are more likely to make mistakes when they are at work. Employers may also be liable for misdeeds committed by drug-using employees."

Small Business readers, what do you think? Take the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

By Sharon McLoone |  January 23, 2009; 12:20 PM ET
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Comments

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It is Very simple. Either Workers are Impaired or they are Not. Use Impairment testing Instead of Body Fluid testing.

There are Numerous causes of impairment that have Nothing to do with Consumption of Any Substance.

Posted by: friedamae | January 23, 2009 1:46 PM

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