Good news for those who like to chill. A new Senate measure, if passed by the Oregon legislature, will make it illegal for employers to fire employees for off-the-job marijuana use. SB 301, which was introduced in the first week of 2017, has been referred to judicial and has now been scheduled to be discussed in a public work session.
The Joint Interim Marijuana Legalization Committee first conceived the bill, though the ethical debate of what it would promise the Oregon workforce has been a point of contention for far longer than marijuana’s legal status. Now that cannabis is a legal substance in Oregon, and is presided over by the OLCC, it only makes sense that the use of marijuana should, at least by law, be treated the same as the use of alcohol.
The official Oregon government text describing SB 301 reads: “Provides that conditioning employment on refraining from using any substance that is lawful to use in this state is unlawful employment practice.”
Proponents of the bill have assured us that in the fine print, the rules designated to protect employees who use marijuana will also prevent employers from rejecting applicants based on their marijuana use, whether employers test positive for TCH or simply admit to regular pot use.
Since pot was decriminalized, high-profile cases of work discrimination for marijuana use have been a subject of constant debate. One of the most notorious conflicts occurred last May when a popular Eugene news anchor was fired for failing a drug test.
Oregon is technically an “at-will” employment state – according to the Oregon Government technical assistance webpage for employers, employers can legally terminate any employee for any reason they choose. Despite the fact that marijuana is legal in the state, Oregon employers can still fire employees for testing positive for the substance. The bill does not affect employers’ right to drug test employees for marijuana, alcohol or other drugs as the safety of a business and its workers could still be threatened by the use of more dangerous or addictive substances.