How Employers Can Handle Opioids in the Workplace
Employers in today’s business world are increasingly facing serious personnel issues related to the use of opioids in the workplace. The chance of an employee using opioids during the workday has become significantly higher throughout the last decade. For the first time, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States, with 1 in 96 odds of an individual dying in an unintentional opioid overdose in their lifetime. Individuals suffering from the chronic pain of a workplace injury can be especially vulnerable to abusing prescription opioids.
Establishing a Clear Drug Policy
An employee’s use of highly addictive prescription painkillers can present a significant safety hazard. One of the most important steps an employer can take to reduce opioid abuse at work is to establish and communicate a clear drug policy to the entire company. A written drug policy should include the consequences and penalties for using, selling, and distributing illegal opioids at work. Guidelines regarding the use of prescription opioids and mandatory drug testing should also be put in place. Many workers’ compensation and occupational health programs include instructions to their participating providers regarding the prescribing of opioids to workers.
In many cases, mandatory drug testing becomes a part of an employer’s drug policy.
Some of the most common opioids screened during employee drug testing include:
Employers should follow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines when determining under what circumstances a drug test is required. In general, employers can demand drug testing when there is a reasonable suspicion drug use is interfering with an employee’s ability to perform an essential function of their job or is posing a direct threat to the safety of the employee or others.
When an employee fails a drug test, disciplinary actions usually follow. Employers should consult with legal counsel to ensure consequences do not violate federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or state laws which allow “reasonable accommodations” for drug treatment.
By providing proper education on the risks associated with taking prescription opioids, employers can help prevent opioid abuse at work. Often there are alternative non-opioid medications available to workers, which educational programs can promote. Many employee assistance programs have drug-free workplace initiatives providing resources to individuals struggling with addiction. Part of educating employees also includes training supervisors to know the signs of impairment that often accompany opioid use.
Obtaining Legal Protection
If an employer fails to properly handle the use of opioids in the workplace, legal problems can arise. Many employers face difficult disciplinary decisions when they find out an employee is using drugs at work. With the help of an experienced employment lawyer, employers and employees can work together to avoid legal complications should opioid use at the workplace become an issue. Any drug policy instituted by an employer should adhere to state specific and federal guidelines. To navigate this sometimes complex area of the law, employers should seek out the guidance of an experienced business lawyer who can ensure proper legal compliance.
Philadelphia Business Lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser Serve Businesses Throughout the Delaware Valley
At MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser, our experienced Philadelphia business lawyers represent businesses and employers throughout Philadelphia and Chester County, Pennsylvania in a wide range of legal matters. Our offices are conveniently located in West Chester, Pennsylvania. To schedule a confidential consultation today with one of our business attorneys, call us at 484-318-7106 or submit an online inquiry form.
Effectiveness of Police Body Cams
Police body cameras are popular with the public because they supposedly provide an account of what occurred in a disputed confrontation with the police. Advocates for their use argue that the cameras foster trust with the community the police officers serve. Body cameras provide a means by which one can independently verify what occurred. However, the utility of the cameras in reducing allegations of police misconduct is undetermined.
Departments Control the Cameras and Footage
Effectiveness of the police body cameras is dependent on the police department in which they are used. Critics of their use argue that since police officers have control over the cameras they are wearing, they determine when to turn “on” or “off” their cameras. Therefore, they may not always record their confrontations. Furthermore, they argue that police departments have control over the footage after it has been recorded. Consequently, the perception that police departments may be secretive or protecting their police officers can lead to distrust if administrators do not make transparency a priority.
Body Cameras Do Not Prevent Violent Altercations
Body cameras alone do not reduce incidents of violence and therefore some argue that they are not effective in protecting police officers or civilians from being injured in a heated situation. Rather, training and retraining officers on transactional model communication and active listening is a better approach. Research has found that proper training and experience in simulated settings hones police officers’ ability to react in tense situations to diffuse the tensions and not resort to violence.
Body Cameras May Not Be Cost Effective
The biggest criticism for police body cameras is their cost. Cost of the camera is not limited to the camera itself, there are costs associated with storing the footage and maintenance of the cameras that can be prohibitive. Many large police departments need to allocate a substantial amount of their budget toward body cameras.
Civil Rights Defense Lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser Advise and Represent Law Enforcement Agencies
Civil rights defense attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser have successfully defended numerous police officers and law enforcement agencies throughout Pennsylvania from our office in West Chester, including those in the areas of Philadelphia and Chester County. To schedule a consultation or find out more, contact us online or call our office at 484-318-7106.
The Importance of Compliance in the Workforce
All businesses, whether they are a small privately-owned business or a large conglomerate, are responsible to comply with federal and state laws. Unlawful discrimination, corrupt personnel practices, workplace harassment, employee safety, and wage, payroll, and benefit issues can wreak legal havoc on a business, costing owners hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties and legal fees. Strong and clearly established corporate policies and procedures can help business owners avoid the hassles and legal problems that can come with noncompliance.
Benefits of a Strong Workplace Compliance Program
Federal, state, and international laws vary greatly, and keeping compliant in the fluctuating climate of our global business environment can be overwhelming. Keeping track of international, federal, and state laws governing the ethical and legal practices for an organization is an ever-changing process. Corporate policies and procedures need to be continuously evaluated and updated.
The main benefits of a strong workplace compliance program include:
- Prevents illegal or unethical actions committed by uniformed employees
- Encourages reporting of illegal and unethical actions of administrators, managers, and colleagues
- Reduces the likelihood for waste, fraud, abuse, discrimination, and corruption
- Sets employee expectations
- Supports the goals of the organization
- Increases productivity
- Promotes corporate growth and sustainability
- Prevents corporate crisis and failure
- Helps in the defense of the corporation should a lawsuit occur
When employees are properly trained and educated on corporate compliance and its importance to corporate success, businesses can operate effectively and efficiently.
Elements of a Corporate Compliance Program
To reap the full benefits of corporate compliance, a company must establish a strong plan. The essential elements of a corporate compliance program include:
- Training: Comprehensive training on business laws and ethical practices that relate to a business, and on the importance of corporate compliance needs to start with a company’s top administrators and trickle down to the general workforce. An employee that does not understand what the laws and regulations are cannot be expected to behave appropriately.
- Hire a Corporate Compliance Officer: A corporate compliance officer is one that consistently reviews corporate policies, establishes a corporate plan, and enforces the policies and procedures that support the compliance program.
- Establish Modes of Communication for Administration and Employees: Communication is essential to corporate compliance. Employees need to have an established mode of reporting non-compliant actions as well as one that counsels employees that violate rules.
- Consistent Review and Evaluation of Corporate Policies: The federal, state, and international laws governing business are in a constant state of change and development. Consistent review of the laws and regulations as well as corporate compliance policies and procedures will ensure that business practices remain ethical and compliant.
- Annual Risk Assessment: It is imperative that corporations identify the biggest risk areas for their corporation and annually evaluate their audit results, recent litigation, compliance complaints, employee claims, and policies affecting each risk area.
West Chester Employment Lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser Help Businesses Establish Corporate Compliance Programs
The West Chester employment lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser help businesses establish corporate compliance programs that protect them from lawsuits and penalties for non-compliance. Call us at 484-318-7106 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our West Chester, Pennsylvania offices serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and across the state.
Should Your Workplace have a Marijuana Use Policy?
As states across the country take up the issue of legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, a gray area remains where state and federal laws overlap and seem to contradict each other. Many Pennsylvania employers are questioning how to navigate the unique human resources concerns when the state approves medical marijuana use, but the federal government bans it.
Recently, MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser partner, Matthew J. Connell, offered his insight into the conundrum many state employers currently face regarding medical marijuana. Speaking before the Berks County chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management, Connell acknowledged the gaps and discrepancies in current marijuana laws.
Calling cannabis law in Pennsylvania, “new and untested by the courts,” Connell feels employers are left to figure it out as they go. He believes creating and enforcing a solid marijuana policy is essential for employers to protect their interests and prevent costly, time-consuming legal claims.
The following are some of the key issues surrounding medical marijuana in the workplace:
Like race, religion, and sex, medical marijuana use is protected by workplace discrimination laws. Workers who disclose their use of cannabis for any of the 21 state-approved conditions cannot be adversely affected in terms of hiring, promotions, or termination. Where marijuana use was once grounds for termination, legal use for medical purposes is now protected under the law – provided it is not smoked.
While medical marijuana use is permitted under Pennsylvania law, there are obvious pressing safety concerns regarding impaired workers performing certain jobs. The part of the law addressing when employers can prohibit workers from doing more risky jobs like mining or working with high-voltage equipment is not clear enough to be easily enforced, leaving these guidelines open to employer interpretation.
Marijuana Testing Flaws
The law allows employers to prohibit workers with a blood content of more than 10 nanograms of active THC per milliliters of blood in serum from doing these high-risk jobs. This is a primary area of confusion in the law. Employers are not equipped to gauge what that amount is, let alone accurately test workers to make that determination. Testing is essentially useless because while THC can be detected in the blood, there is no way to determine if it is from legal or illegal use.
Beyond these key pressing issues, there is one larger overall problem with the nebulous cannabis law in Pennsylvania. What does it mean to be under the influence? Until THC testing is perfected, Attorney Connell recommends companies clarify and define observable, physical behaviors and incorporate that definition into their corporate policy. Workers who are obviously stumbling, slurring their speech, or behaving out of character may be under the influence and too impaired to do their job safely.
Attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser Help Pennsylvania Employers and Workers Understand Cannabis Law
Pennsylvania employment law attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser help human resources professionals consider every aspect of the law when creating their cannabis policy. To discuss your employment law matter with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney, call 484-318-7106 or complete an online inquiry today. Located in West Chester, we represent clients throughout Chester County and all of Pennsylvania.