HR & Compliance |8 min read

I’m Smelling Cannabis on an Employee at Work… HR AMA with Paul Edwards (May 2023)

Hello AADOM Tribe! Welcome back to the monthly LIVE Ask Me Anything with Paul Edwards, CEDR CEO & Founder, and Heather Colicchio, founder and president of AADOM. Throughout the upcoming year, you can submit HR issues that are happening right now in your practice to Paul and CEDR’s team of HR professionals for them to answer. Our team will pick from the dozens that are being submitted and choose several to give guidance on within our Monthly HR Article. Then, Paul and Heather will expand on the written answers during every HR Tuesday Livecast. To submit your questions, click here!

For the in-depth, expanded, and detailed answers…
Listen to HR Tuesdays live, mark your calendar for the second Tuesday of each month, or go here to check out the archived recordings.

All your daily human resource issues likely have some state, federal, or local employment laws that you must comply with while, at the same time, trying to find the best human way to solve the core problem. In this series, we will fit the two together and help you all come up with some great resolutions.

Here are three of your best submissions this month:

  • I have an employee that has come into the office smelling like cannabis; what should I do?
  • Two employees at our practice seem to hate each other, and patients are noticing. How do I handle this?
  • An old employee of ours wants to come back and work for us. Can we use the same paperwork we had on file before?

Let’s Get to Your Questions

Question: What should I do after an employee arrives at work with the smell of weed, even though it is legally allowed for recreational use in Arizona? Despite not showing signs of being high, the smell was noticed by patients, and I don’t want to give them the impression that we have employees working while under the influence. I had to send the employee home to change clothes. Are there any other steps that I should take?

The legal side of things: Since your employee is not showing signs of being high (which is an entirely different conversation…Click to read more in a new tab…), this issue becomes focused on an unpleasant odor in the workplace. Since cannabis is legal in your state and has some legal protections for employees, you don’t want to get caught up in whether the employee is using the drug or not unless you suspect they are impaired. Because of this, your employee handbook will be the basis of your conversation with your employee. If you have a well-rounded handbook…Click to read more in a new tab…, it should have sections on both hygiene and a smoke-free work environment. Both policies can be referenced to support you in approaching your employee. Remember, for now, you will be addressing the smell in your practice, not the use of the drug itself.

Now for the human approach: Approaching the employee privately to address the smell will be your first step. Hopefully, as we stated, your handbook adequately addresses smells in the workplace. Remember, using objective language during this conversation is the way to go. By that, we mean to only address the facts of the matter at hand, such as the odor present and the fact that patients have noticed it.Give the employee a chance to speak during this conversation, as oftentimes we have found that they aren’t even aware of “a” smell in the first place and are thankful you point it out so they can prevent it going forward. We have even seen cases where an employee may live with someone who smokes and doesn’t realize the smell is present on their own clothes.After you have had this conversation, you have the option of sending the employee home to change or even home for the day, which honestly, seems a bit more like a reward than a punitive measure. Even if the recreational use of cannabis is legal, as it is in Arizona they are not legally protected when it comes to the smell.

Don’t forget to document the conversation. Be sure to write your documentation as objectively as your conversation went, ensuring you focus on the smell that was addressed, not the presumptive use of the drug itself. Again, the employee is not showing any signs of impairment. If the issue persists, you can move forward with corrective action like any other issue that is not being resolved after coaching.

Question: I have two employees that really seem not to be able to make things ok with one another. They barely interact unless absolutely necessary, and when they do, everyone in the room feels it. From what I can tell, one of the employees feels like the other is intentionally excluding her from everything. It seems they cannot resolve this independently, as they each keep coming to me complaining about the other. What can I do?

The legal side of things: Other than ensuring you treat all employees equally while addressing this conflict, there are no obvious laws to remember here. However, that could change depending on potential things that may be uncovered during coaching conversations (such as one employee specifically targeting the other due to a protected class…Click to read more in a new tab…). For now, we will label this as a low-risk conflict and proceed with guidance with this in mind.

Now for the human approach: While occasional conflict will be a natural part of any workplace, (and even constructive), when left to its own accord, it can quickly morph into all sorts of problems, including becoming a team sport where people and even departments dig in and take sides. Once sides are taken, a split occurs, and it will impact the workplace at every level.One significant difficulty when addressing conflict is getting everyone, including you, past those interpersonal barriers and genuine emotions. Humans are complicated. Because of this, we are bringing back objective versus subjective thinking; using objective language will be the best way to ensure all employees are treated the same during this conflict. The issue is what gets attacked, not the people involved. It can help you pose solutions more effectively and support your need to document your efforts in a way that protects your practice.When approaching these employees, use your company culture that has already been set (mission, vision, and core values) to use as the backbone of your objective conversation. Start by reminding them that personal conflict, which prevents them from providing outstanding attention to their patients that negatively impacts the workplace, is unacceptable and needs to stop. For example, your conversation could look like this when one of the employees involved approaches you:

Employee: “I’m trying to build a relationship with my coworkers, but they keep me at arms-length all the time. I feel they dislike me or don’t want me to succeed.”

Manager: “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Can you give me some specific examples of what you’re observing so I can help? If you can give me a few days, I think I can reset the team and help you get through this. I’ll do the reset, and don’t worry, they will never know you talked to me.”

Your next step would be to address the examples the employee brought to you with the other employee or employees involved. For this conversation, we highly suggest using the FIRR method…Click to read more in a new tab…. Back up your conversation with language surrounding your core values: Your team values teamwork, professionalism, and a patient-focused mindset. If you see workplace conflicts outside of these values, you can ask your employees to self-correct their behavior to get back into compliance with those values.

As we always say, be sure to document all conversations…Click to read more in a new tab…. If the issue persists, issuing corrective action is perfectly acceptable.

Do you have an HR question for Paul? Submit your HR questions for Paul to discuss on the next HR Tuesday LiveCast here!

Question: An employee who quit two months ago has asked to return to work at our practice. I TOLD HER SO! Since they recently quit, I still have all their paperwork. Do they have to redo all the new-hire paperwork again, or can I use what is already on file? My practice is in Idaho.

The legal side of things: Congratulations on your “I told you so rehire! It’s always a good sign when employees want to return and work for you. Legally, things are pretty easy here. With the documents you have, like the employee information form and tax withholding (form W-4), you’re in luck. As long as the employee reviews what you already have on file for accuracy and approves that everything is still current and no changes are necessary, you can re-use them. If their 1-9 information isn’t expired, just input the rehire date in the designated section and add the current date.The same goes for any necessary certifications. You don’t need to get new copies if the ones on file are still current.

Now for the human approach: You will need to re-create some documents during this process. One that you for sure need to create from scratch is a rehire letter that explains their status and things like schedule, pay, and any other administrative stuff.If you haven’t heard, our free HR Vault…Click to read more in a new tab… comes in handy here. When you reactivate a previous employee in the Vault, all their original documents will remain dust-free in the system. The Vault keeps everything conveniently organized and accessible, saving you and your employee time and expediting the rehire process.

Remember, submit your HR questions for Paul to discuss on the next HR Tuesday LiveCast here!

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