How Workplaces Are Handling Hot-Button Issues

Posted October 5, 2018 by Mary McGinley

According to an article by George Nelson on The Business Journal’s website, HR and legal departments for companies around the country are working to policies regarding sexual harassment and legalized marijuana.

Because of the #MeToo movement, issues surrounding sexual harassment in the workplace have been receiving increased attention.  This, along with changes in national legislation which now prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers and their families, companies have focused on creating an environment for workers that is more inclusive and reassuring.

According to Matthew Ries, an attorney with Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell, “You can throw a policy in a handbook and say, ‘Well, we prohibit it,’ but I don’t know that necessarily sends the human message to employees that it’s something that the company takes really seriously.”

Ries asserts that because of how widespread and pervasive the problem of sexual harassment on the job is, companies need to go beyond the usual lip service of the past and let workers know that their complaints will be taken seriously and investigated. This means that training for both workers and management staff.

Another issue which organizations are grappling with in today’s workplace is that of cannabis legalization. Regardless of whether a worker’s home state has legalized cannabis or if an employee uses for recreational or medicinal use, there are concerns.  Most organizations don’t want to have workers who are under the influence while on the job simply because they consider it to be a safety issue. Companies have no requirement to accommodate workers who use cannabis medicinally. They can still be disciplined and terminated if its use is against company policy.

This would seem to line up with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) guidelines. Neither OSHA nor the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regard the use of medical marijuana as being a “permitted accommodation”. If someone is hurt by a worker on the job who is using medical marijuana, for example, it could mean a serious problem for the company that they work for. That’s the kind of issue that most companies and HR professionals feel is best avoided.