Accommodation for the Use of Cannabis in the Workplace for Medicinal Purposes

I’m Shaun Bernstein, and this is your employment law update.

With the recent legalization of recreational cannabis, accommodation is once again front and center. No, employers don’t have to condone recreational cannabis usage at work, and they can put policies in place to prevent employees from working while high. But, for employees who use cannabis for medicinal purposes, because of a disability, or because of addiction, which also classifies as a disability, employers do have to accommodate to the point of unreasonable hardship. How does this work for employers? We like to tell employers: think of accommodation as your one chance to be selfish. Wait, what? That doesn’t make sense. It does, but let me explain.

So, at its best, accommodation is really a two way street, with employers and employees each playing a role in making the process work. For employers, they have to accommodate to the point of unreasonable hardship. That means they have to really give it their all to make that employee feel welcomed in that workplace. This can mean spending some extra money on services, this can mean changing up schedules, moving office space around, really whatever is needed, to that just point of where they just can’t make it work, to support that employee in their workplace. Employees should also be part of this process and help fashion accommodations that make sense for both parties. If an employee is being really obstinate, and they’re turning down every reasonable effort at accommodation, then their human rights may no longer be protected.

So, what does an employer have to know to make these accommodations work? This is where that selfish part comes in. They only have to know how the employee’s issue impacts them. So employers: put your selfish hat on, and think “what does this mean for me?” This means, if an employee has a medical disability for example, they don’t get to know all the juicy, gory details of treatment. All they are entitled to know, and all they should have to know to make accommodations work, is what the employee’s needs are for the workplace, how long they may be off – if they’re off on leave, when they’re expected to return, and what could be done to accommodate them in the workplace upon their return to work. This can be ascertained through conversations with the employee, or through documentation, either from treating physicians, or other professionals.

Remember employers, don’t overthink. If you’re asking too many questions, you’re liable to find out information that could adversely impact that employee’s human rights. Put that selfish hat on, and use that mantra: what does this mean for me?

I’m Shaun Bernstein, and this is your employment law update.

Shaun Bernstein

My experience has taught me the beauty of being able to work fluidly on both sides of employment law. For example, it can be deeply rewarding helping a recently terminated employee achieve a fair settlement that recognizes their contributions to the company, and the situation they have found themselves in. But it is equally as rewarding to be able to help that employer straighten out issues as or even before they arise, and hopefully preventing the need for that employee to have called us in the first place.

I previously ran a blog explaining employment law issues to a wide audience, and am incredibly proud to have twice won Clawbies (Canadian Law Blog Awards) for Best New Law Blog and Best Practitioner Blog.