Employee Handbook. Weed. Legal or Illegal?

As I wait (and wait, and wait, and wait) to hear back from Commercial Property Owners on my offer for The Brass Lamp, I’m working on preparing the structure of my business… things like legal paperwork, licenses, permits, payroll, HR, and of course, the employee handbook.

With an employee handbook, there’s just so many things that an Owner has to think about… many details that we all take for granted, which we think is common sense, but actually needs to be s.p.e.l.l.e.d. out.  Things like, instructing an employee to refrain from giving away free drinks to friends (I know, I’m such a ball buster!), not drinking on the job (it’s like a Nazi concentration camp!), and specifying which drugs they can use, or not use!  If you’re a square-pants like me, you’d think that all drugs shouldn’t be consumed on the job.  But if you’re “that guy,” then you’ll smoke your blunt behind the trash bins outside, and think of clever ways to get around the loopholes!

Check out this article:  “I recently fired a cook for actively smoking marijuana on the job. He went outside loaded up a bowl, and smoked it up.  He was witnessed by a neighboring business, and two of my staff. When I asked him if he did it, he acknowledged he did. I asked if he remembered signing an employee handbook that advised him that any use of illegal drugs or alcohol on the job would (not may) result in termination. He did. Cut and dry right?

He, of course, filed for unemployment.  The reason he stated he was fired was for violation of company policy. I filled out the form and sent it back with a detailed rationale and documentation.

Last week I got a call from the Employment Department asking for a copy of my handbook. They were concerned because I hadn’t specifically stated WHICH illegal drugs were grounds for termination. I countered with ALL ILLEGAL DRUGS because they are ILLEGAL.

She explained that I needed to define which specific drugs were illegal because it’s possible that because we neighbor a state in which marijuana IS legal, the employee didn’t realize it wasn’t okay.  I explained that EVERYONE knows marijuana is not legal. That is why you cannot purchase it at places like Safeway.

I was advised that as an employer, I “cannot assume that the employee has culpability if they are ignorant of the law“.  Now, I get to spend another hour or so on a phone hearing disputing his unemployment – which he was AWARDED – so that my unemployment rates
won’t go up even more. To be clear, I don’t care what my employees do on their
off time – but this guy didn’t even bother to clock out for his high.

**Advice to all business owners – adjust your employee handbooks NOW! 

**Advise to all “culprits,” don’t reference this blog as your legal back up!

“There is a time and a place for everything.  Live like your life is being shown on a jumbo-tron.”           -Anonymous Argosino

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