Can Using Legal Drugs Get Me Fired in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Sep 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

We all know that drug and alcohol can cause serious problems for employers. It can cause a drop in productivity, an increase in absenteeism, and an increase in worker's compensation and medical claims.

Legal Drug Use

With alcohol, an employee in California cannot be fired for using alcohol on their own time, or technically even for alcoholism. They can however be terminated for using alcohol during work hours or their decreased work performance.

As an employee, you may be prescribed medications for an illness or injury, or are maybe taking something over the counter. Usually, employers feel this is none of their concern unless it affects job performance.

If an employee takes a prescription medication which makes them unsafe in the workplace can they be fired?

State and federal disability laws limit what actions can be taken. How the employee will be handled depends on a lot of different factors and whether the employee suffers from a disability.

Illegal Drugs

In the case of illegal drugs, state and federal disability laws do not come into play. The employer can take whatever action they deem appropriate pursuant to their company guidelines. This can range from a reprimand to a requirement to get counseling, to termination.

Where this becomes tricky is in the case of medical marijuana. Cases have come through the California courts where an employee has been fired for medical marijuana use. The laws and how they are enforced is evolving in this area, and the answer as to what is acceptable is not clear-cut. As it stands now, employers must accommodate an employee with disabilities but they do not have to condone marijuana use on the job.

Currently, neither state nor federal laws prohibit employers from terminating an employee for marijuana use even when it is used because of a disability and is in keeping with California medical marijuana laws.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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