Is Your Retail Employee Handbook Up-to-Date?

“Pot Smoking Employee Gets Unemployment Benefits”


That was the headline we saw in a recent discussion forum where a business owner had terminated an employee for smoking marijuana while on the job.   No fewer than three people witnessed the employees stepping out of the back door of the business and lighting up a pipe and imbibing.

When the employee was asked about the situation he admitted to using marijuana while on the job.  He also said he remembered signing the receipt for his employee handbook that advised him that any use of illegal drugs or alcohol on the job would result in the termination of his employment – which the store manager promptly executed.

The former employee promptly filed for unemployment and truthfully stated that he was terminated for a violation of company policy.  The business owner then completed their paperwork detailing the Company’s side of the story and it would seem that this would be a simple case where the former employee’s claim would be denied.

Unfortunately, the claim was upheld because, after providing a copy of the handbook to the State authorities, the unemployment compensation division determined that the handbook was not specific enough about which drugs were illegal.  It seems that the State determined that based on the fact that some states are now making marijuana use legal – either outright or for medical purposes – that it is possible that employees don’t fully understand what is or is not a legal drug.

The employer is appealing the ruling, but retailers and other employers may want to take a look at their employee handbooks and other new employee training course materials that discuss these topics.  Additionally, all retail employers need to keep immaculate records while periodically reviewing their policies and procedures so that they can be assured they are complying with changing laws in their jurisdictions.