Marijuana at Work after Legalization

The Canadian and Ontario governments have now announced the Rules and Regulations for marijuana, which is set to become legal across Canada for recreational use in October of this year. The legalization of marijuana raises many new challenges and concerns about the effect on workplace safety.

Can recreational marijuana be used at work?

Short answer: no. The Ontario regulations only permit the use of recreational marijuana in private residences. Use elsewhere, such as in cars, public parks, or workplaces can result in provincial offences and fines up to $5,000.

Ontario’s rational for this law is “to protect people from second-hand cannabis smoke, and reduce youth and young adult exposure to cannabis.”

Can an employee be high at work?

Impairment is a long standing issue in the Ontario workplace and marijuana use will complicate things further. Marijuana has psychotropic effects which, like alcohol, can impair judgement, however a direct connection to workplace incidents has not been definitely established. Maclean’s released an article on the health effects of marijuana in the workplace and reported that:

Several studies have examined the impact of marijuana use on workplace outcomes, but with mixed results.

Some have found associations between marijuana use in the workforce and work absenteeism, reduced productivity, job turnover, disciplinary measures, workplace accidents and injuries, unemployment and interpersonal conflict.

However, other studies have found no association with some of these outcomes. Overall, the evidence to date is quite inconsistent.

In 2017, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences published a major report on the health effects of marijuana use, including impacts on injuries and accidents in a workplace setting.

Based on six studies, the review did not find enough evidence to either support or refute a statistical link between marijuana use and occupational injuries or accidents.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) already imposes strict obligations on employers to keep their employees and workplaces safe. These obligations include ensuring workers are not introducing hazards to the workplace as a result of impairment arising from marijuana use.

What obligations an employer has will depend on the individual circumstances of the workplace. The appropriate policies and measures will be different. For example, if an employer, manager or supervisor becomes aware that a worker who operates heavy machinery appears to be impaired, the appropriate steps would be different from an employee who works at a desk most of the day.

In all circumstances a duty is owed to ensure the health and safety of workers are protected and the OHSA is being complied with.

What about Medical Marijuana in the Workplace?

Like any other prescribed medication, Ontario employers have a duty to accommodate an employees illness, including the use of  medicinal marijuana in appropriate places around the workplace in accordance with doctor’s directions.

The duty to accommodate extends to the point of undue hardship. A prescription for medical marijuana does not entitle an employee to compromise the safety of themselves or others. Nor does it entitle them to smoke around others or in doors – Smoke-free Ontario laws apply to the smoking marijuana in the same way they do for cigarettes. However, an employer may have to permit an employee a suitable workplace accommodation to use their medication.

What should I do if I am an Employer in Ontario?

If you already have good policies in place, then they will not need to be drastically changed.

To ensure a safe and hazard free work environment, employers should conduct a risk assessment of marijuana in their workplace, then update their written measures to control the risks or, where practicable, eliminate the hazards identified from substance abuse. It may be a good idea to provide training to management or supervisors on the signs of marijuana intoxication.


Contact Justin W. Anisman

Contact Justin W. Anisman, the author of this blog, about any employment law related questions or issues you may be facing. Call 416-304-7005 or email him at janisman@btzlaw.ca.

Justin W. Anisman is an Employment Lawyer at the Toronto law firm Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP. Justin advises both companies and individuals in all aspects of employment law including wrongful dismissal, human rights and discrimination.


The publications made on this website are provided and intended for general introductory information purposes only. They do not constitute legal or other professional advice, or an opinion of any kind. Speak to a professional before making decisions about your own particular circumstances.

 

 

 

“My Boss Got Naked in Front of Me on a Work Trip”

While exploring one of the legal forums I frequent, a person posted a question about an incident that occurred on a work trip with his boss:

I recently went on a business trip with my employer and many other employees, and I spent the night in a hotel room with my employer (just me and him in this two-bed room). While I was laying in bed reading with the lights on, he walked out of the bathroom naked to get something from his suitcase. He knew I was in the hotel room before he stepped into the bathroom.

I commented that I was uncomfortable seeing him naked, and he apologised and went back to the bathroom. He could clearly see that I was in the room (in full sight of him), and did seem phased that I saw him naked until I commented about it.

We are both male, and he only recently found out that I am homosexual (he is openly homosexual as well). 12 people went on this trip in total (2 per room) and he made the room arrangements.

He has previously invited me to go to the bar with him for drinks. I said no to this and he hasn’t asked again.

I would like to know if this constitutes workplace harassment.

Are you shouting at the screen “Yes! This must be sexual harassment”? Are you all ready to retweet #MeToo? Well, I wouldn’t necessarily jump to that conclusion.

Workplace harassment is governed by the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act RSO 1990 c O-1 and is defined as follows:

“workplace harassment” means,

(a) engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or

(b) workplace sexual harassment; (“harcèlement au travail”)

“workplace sexual harassment” means,

(a) engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or

(b) making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome;

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal gives these examples of sexual harassment:

  • demanding hugs
  • invading personal space
  • unnecessary physical contact, including unwanted touching, etc.
  • using language that puts someone down and/or comments toward women (or men, in some cases), sex-specific derogatory names
  • leering or inappropriate staring
  • making gender-related comments about someone’s physical characteristics or mannerisms
  • making comments or treating someone badly because they don’t conform with sex-role stereotypes
  • showing or sending pornography, sexual pictures or cartoons, sexually explicit graffiti, or other sexual images (including on-line)
  • sexual jokes, including passing around written sexual jokes (for example, by e-mail)
  • rough and vulgar humour or language related to gender
  • using sexual or gender-related comment or conduct to bully someone
  • spreading sexual rumours (including on-line)
  • making suggestive or offensive comments or hints about members of a specific gender
  • making sexual propositions
  • verbally abusing, threatening or taunting someone based on gender
  • bragging about sexual prowess
  • demanding dates or sexual favours
  • making offensive sexual jokes or comments
  • asking questions or talking about sexual activities
  • making an employee dress in a sexualized or gender-specific way
  • acting paternally in a way that someone thinks undermines their self-respect or position of responsibility
  • threats to penalize or otherwise punish a person who refuses to comply with sexual advances (reprisal or “payback”).

The conduct of this employer may not clearly rise to the level of harassment. Inviting a subordinate to drinks isn’t inappropriate on its face and this boss stopped pressing once he was told no. Likewise, the incident on this business trip may simply have been a potential hazard of same-sex lodgings. This employee told his boss that it made him uncomfortable and the boss apologized and went back into the bathroom. At worst, this was a clumsy attempt at starting a sexual relationship with this employee. But, there is no mention of any conduct by this employer trying to steer conversations towards sexual subjects, making suggestive or lewd comments, pressuring this employee into initiating a sexual encounter, or threats or acts of reprisal.

In a situation like this, I would recommend the employee approach the employer, after the trip and back in the workplace, to explain that this made him uncomfortable, and that, as a result, he would prefer not to lodge with him again. He may want to follow this up with an email to keep a record.

 


Contact Justin W. Anisman

Contact Justin W. Anisman, the author of this blog, about any employment law related questions or issues you may be facing. Call 416-304-7005 or email him at janisman@btzlaw.ca.

Justin W. Anisman is an Employment Lawyer at the Toronto law firm Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP. Justin advises both companies and individuals in all aspects of employment law including wrongful dismissal, human rights and discrimination.


The publications made on this website are provided and intended for general introductory information purposes only. They do not constitute legal or other professional advice, or an opinion of any kind. Speak to a professional before making decisions about your own particular circumstances.