Handling Prescription and Illegal Drug Use in the Workplace

The costs of an employee lawsuit can devastate both sides of a case. At her practice, former litigator and current restaurant employment lawyer Lexington Wolff advises industry employers on how to avoid such lawsuits in the first place.

In the latest episode for the new podcast Restaurant Masters, guest host Wolff discusses how to handle employee use of illegal and prescription drugs at your restaurant within the bounds of the law.

Drug use has always been a problem in the restaurant industry, but the issue has become more legally fraught for employers and employees alike in recent years.

“A lot of employers are under the misconception that they are entitled to a drug-free workplace, and that they have the power to influence that by any means,” says Wolff. “That is not exactly accurate. The law is really much more nuanced.”

In general, employers can test for illegal drug use at any time, and discipline employees who refuse to take a test. However, prescription drug employment laws are a bit less clear.

“If you’re going to test for prescription drug use, it’s very likely you’re going to learn about a medical condition or a protected disability that you otherwise had no reason to know about,” notes Wolff. And despite what some employers may think, “the less you know about a person’s protected status, the better.”

If you fire an employee or do not hire a candidate for a role after such an extensive test, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of a lawsuit. A candidate could effectively argue in court that you did not hire them because of their disability.

Listen to the episode above to learn more about developing a company-wide drug policy and the ins and outs of current marijuana laws.

Produced by:

Darisha Beresford

Darisha Beresford

Production Manager / Sr. Producer