The Drug-Free Workplace Dilemma
OSF HealthCare helps employers navigate new screening challenges
Unless you're in human resources, personnel or employee relations you may never give it a second thought.
However, maintaining and enforcing a drug-free workplace has never been an easy undertaking and the challenges keep coming. Like the one facing Illinois employers starting with the new year. As of January 1, 2020 the use of recreational marijuana is legal.
That's why the Streator Chamber of Commerce recently teamed with OSF HealthCare and Live Well Streator, a community health initiative, to meet with interested local busineses to outline and examine the legal implications of marijuana legalization and its impact on the drug testing process.
"The employees and the employers are going to have a lot of training to do," says Jack Dzuris, Executive Director of the Streator Chamber of Commerce. "I know January is not that far away, but we'll have to wait and see what the limitations are. But, I'm sure, they'll be all kinds of paperwork involved in it. Any time the government gets involved that's an issue with that. But, just the - what's the - how you can protect yourself and how you can aid other people."
Legal marijuana is entirely new territory for Illinois communities, particularly business owners and employers. Especially when it comes to drug testing.
As Troy Overholt, OSF HealthCare vice president of occupational health explains, there are established, accepted and legally-binding blood alcohol levels when determining when someone is drunk or incapacitated. There is no scientifically reliable way to measure the same for marijuana.
"The chemical we test for is THC." says Troy Overholt, Vice President for Occupational Health at OSF HealthCare. "And it is the only drug that's stored in fat cells that we test for. So, the length of time it's in your system is not a blood test level. So, you could test high today from use - from who knows how long ago - weeks, months. And it depends greatly on frequency and the amount of use."
Overholt admits to employers that while it may be risky and has yet to be challenged in court, monitoring for marijuana impairment in an employee may need to be less scientific and more observational.
"We have to rely on behaviors of the person that we're observing," says Troy Overholt, Vice President for Occupational Health at OSF HealthCare. "So, that's a very different situation for employers. And employers are really concerned about the availability of recreational marijuana and what's that going to do to the pool of candidates if they do keep a zero-tolerance drug-free workplace."
Streator Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jack Dzuris says it's beneficial to have a health care partner like OSF to help him and his members attempt to navigate these new issues facing drug-free workplaces.
To learn more about Live Well Streator, go to https://www.osfhealthcare.org/locations/streator/community-health/live-well-streator/.