Naperville Business Law Attorney Discusses Employer Drug Policies Following the Legalization of Cannabis in Illinois

Illinois employers must navigate a large number of legal obstacles when it comes to the rights of their employees. Employers are subject to many state and federal employment laws, including those regarding wrongful termination and discrimination. Now that cannabis is recreationally legal in Illinois, many employers are worried that maintaining a “drug-free workplace” policy or requiring drug testing could put them at risk for legal liability. If you are an employer, you should make sure you thoroughly understand the applicable employment laws so that you can remain compliant. Violating these laws can lead to costly lawsuits and a host of legal problems.

Can an Employer Still Enforce a Drug-Free Workplace?

For decades, many employers have required a potential employee to pass a drug test in order to qualify for employment. Employers instituted drug-free workplace policies and zero tolerance rules regarding drug use. Traditionally, these policies have included marijuana. However, now that more and more states are allowing the medical or recreational use of marijuana, many employers are concerned that requiring workers to remain drug-free could result in legal issues.

In 2019, the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act was signed into law. Starting January 1 of this year, Illinois residents are permitted to consume cannabis even if they do not have a documented medical need for the drug. An amendment to the Cannabis Act signed into law on December 4, 2019 clarified the rights employers have regarding drug policies that include marijuana. The amendment clearly states that the Cannabis Act does not open employers up to liability for:

Enforcing a reasonable zero-tolerance workplace drug policy

Prohibiting employees from being under the influence of cannabis while performing job duties or being on call

Terminating or disciplining an employee for violating the workplace drug policy

Additionally, employers are permitted to fire an employee based on a “good faith” belief that the employee is under the influence of marijuana at work. Employers should note that the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act prohibits employers from firing an employee due to his or her use of lawful products outside of the workplace during nonworking hours.

Although the amendment to the Illinois Cannabis Act helped clarify employer’s rights and responsibilities when it comes to employee cannabis use, it does not entirely eliminate employers’ exposure to potential lawsuits. To ensure that your company’s policies regarding drug use, termination, and other issues gives you the best possible chances of avoiding a lawsuit, have these policies evaluated by an experienced employment law attorney.

Contact a DuPage County Business Law Attorney

Seasoned Naperville business lawyer Denice Gierach has more than 40 years of experience in the practice of business and employment law. She and the rest of team at the Gierach Law Firm know the employer mistakes that lead to employment disputes and how to help you avoid these mistakes. Call us at 630-756-1160 today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss all of your business law needs.


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Please note: These blogs have been created over a period of time and laws and information can change. For the most current information on a topic you are interested in please seek proper legal counsel.

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