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The increasing prevalence of marijuana legalization has raised new challenges for employers, particularly regarding employees who use marijuana outside of work hours but bring the scent to the workplace. Addressing this issue requires a delicate balance between respecting individual rights and maintaining a professional and safe work environment.

Identifying the Issue:
1. Observable Signs: Managers may notice a distinct odor of marijuana on an employee or in their workspace.
2. Performance Issues: Consistent tardiness, impaired judgment, or decreased productivity may be linked to marijuana use.

Approaching the Employee:
1. Private Conversation: Arrange a private meeting to address the concern discreetly.
2. Empathy and Understanding: Approach the conversation with empathy, acknowledging the employee’s privacy and the potential medical or legal reasons for marijuana use.
3. Policy Reminder: Reiterate the company’s drug-free workplace policy and clarify the impact of marijuana odor on workplace professionalism and performance.
4. Offer Support: Provide information on resources for support or professional assistance if needed.

Establishing Clear Expectations:
1. Reiterate Professionalism: Emphasize the importance of maintaining a professional appearance and ensuring that personal choices do not impact work quality.
2. Set Boundaries: Clearly outline expectations regarding odor-free workspaces and appropriate behavior during work hours.
3. Follow-Up Plan: Arrange for regular check-ins to monitor progress and offer support as needed.

Getting Assistance from an HR Professional:
1. Consult an HR expert: Seek guidance to ensure compliance with legal regulations.
2. Legal Implications: Be aware of state laws regarding marijuana use and discrimination protection for medical marijuana users.
3. Documentation: Maintain accurate records of conversations and actions taken in case of future disputes or legal issues.

Effectively addressing an employee who smells of marijuana requires a compassionate yet firm approach that upholds workplace standards while respecting individual rights. By following a structured process of identification, conversation, expectation setting, and involving necessary stakeholders, businesses can navigate this sensitive issue with professionalism and sensitivity, while also mitigating risk.

Marzano Human Resources Consulting has experience assisting businesses deal with employees suspected of alcohol or drug use.  Don’t deal with it alone.  The risk to your business if you do the wrong thing is just too great. Reach out to us so we can discusss your concerns and provide a strategy for addressing them.

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