Archive | January, 2014

E-Cigarette and Medicinal Cannabis Use by Employees: Gray Area Matters

20 Jan

Every year brings new challenges for employers, yet few are probably prepared for never-before-seen issues, such as e-cigarettes and medicinal cannabis use at the workplace. Not surprisingly, employers in states that abide by the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988, such as Colorado and Washington, may be especially hesitant when it comes to understanding the law’s full legal implications. It’s understandable that many HR policies in states where these laws are active may be a bit hazy, as the legal rhetoric outlining the rules are less than clear.

Guidance on E-Cigarettes at Work
Twenty-nine states have laws that strictly prohibit ”inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe, or other lighted smoking device for burning tobacco or any other plant” in the workplace. However, electronic cigarettes don’t actually burn anything, but rather contains a heating feature which releases nicotine vapor, according to Ohio lawyer Jon Hyman’s blog on Workforce’s website. This distinction will surely challenge workplace anti-smoking rules, as e-cigareets technically fall outside the lines of what a traditional cigarette consists of and how it is smoked. E-cigarettes are currently allowed in public places that restrict traditional smoking.

In the past, anti-smoking laws in the workplace were implemented to help reduce employees’ exposure to second-hand smoke and lower health-related risks of nicotine addiction among employees who smoke, wrote HR Hero. However, most employers still allowed workers to take intermittent breaks throughout the day to smoke in designated areas. Yet today,’s proponents of e-cigarettes in the workplace say allowing indoor use on the job boosts productivity because the need for outdoor breaks is eliminated. These advocates also say there is no evidence that proves people’s exposure to electronic smoking increases their health risks”, Hyman explained.

To cope with the changing landscape of workplace smoking laws, employers and HR departments must make sure to specifically prohibit e-cigarettes while on the job, as current laws technically allow their use.

Smoke on the Water Cooler: Clarity Needed on Medicinal Cannabis Users
Although employers must be sure to pay attention to their smoking policies in the workplace, there is even more work to be done to negotiate proper guidance on employees who legally use medicinal cannabis outside of work or after hours. Not only are the stratification of laws across America unequal in their level of legality (as in decriminalization, medicinal use, recreational use and total prohibition), the laws regarding their application for employees and employers alike are muddled.

“It’s throwing employers for a loop because many have policies in place where testing positive for THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol (the active ingredient in pot) requires the employee to be terminated or to participate in some sort of treatment program even if it’s not necessary,” Alison Holcomb, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told CNBC when asked how employers with anti-drug policies should enforce rules against legal users of medicinal cannabis.

The only clear guidance issued so far comes to HR departments of businesses that receive federal grants and contracts as these businesses must adhere to the Drug-Free Workplace law, which would require the termination of employees who test positive for THC regardless of any medical uses. Similarly, the Department of Transportation also prohibits any use of illegal substances by its drivers.

Some states, such as Montana, New Jersey, Michigan, Hawaii, Colorado, Vermont and New Mexico all have specific employee protection clauses built into their legislation which only allow termination for on-the-job use or impairment.

Yet, not all states have issued statues that explicitly state what is allowable or legal for workers or HR departments, so it’s vital employers advise legal counsel before implementing any specific policies or enforcing workplace drug rules. Employers must also bear in mind that medicinal cannabis users have been approved by a doctor, usually for compassionate use due to terminal diseases or serious illnesses, and should compare medicinal use to workers taking a Vicodin for pain management once off work premises and after hours.

Now is the time for HR Departments to consult with their legal counsel, review and update the employee handbooks and stay in front of the changes in the legislation.

Stop Talking and Listen For a Change

13 Jan

Positive and Constructive CriticismWhat do you look for in a good candidate?  That’s the magic question.  There is an easy answer.  It’s the candidate who is the best qualified candidate to do the job, right?  Well, yes in that respect but, there are other factors to consider.  Aside from the legal-type considerations, and believe me there are plenty, there is something called behavioral interviewing that you should really consider.

So, what is behavioral interviewing?  Long story short, it’s getting the candidate to talk about their previous (work related) experiences and describe past projects, success stories, failures, reflections and how they may have handled their failures differently with a more favorable outcome.  What does all this mean to the interviewer?  It means you need to SHUSHHHHHHH…listen to the candidate talk.  One of the most interesting things that occur during interviews is that the interviewers talk more than the candidates do.

Stop for a minute and think back to every job you’ve ever interviewed for.  How many times has that happened to you?  My guess is that it’s happened a lot of time throughout your career.  Why does this phenomenon occur?  Well, the easy answer is that most people don’t like long gaps of silence. It falls outside of their conversational comfort zone.  They like to “fill up” the dead air space.  Additionally, listening is not the same as hearing.  You can hear a lot of things but, are you really listening?  Have you really honed the skill of being able to filter out all external stimuli thus being able to focus on only one thing solely?  Most people would probably not admit to being able to do that though.  Let’s face it, we are told continuously by our teachers, peers, mentors and supervisors that being able to multi-task adds great value to our job and works well for meeting overall objectives.  In the interview though, not only could your multi-tasking be mis-interpreted by the candidate as being rude (for example looking at your email, sending a quick text or answering a call), you are also missing out on actually listening to the candidate talk about their experiences.

Bottom line, ask your question.  Hopefully, its open ended and behavioral based.  Then, listen to the candidate’s response.  Process their response, and then ask another probing question to their response.  Do this until you are satisfied that you have a good feel for the fit in matching the candidate’s professional experiences to your company’s mission and where you want that candidate to add the most value for you.

After all, you want to feel extremely comfortable that you know this person will grow to be your star top performer!

How Far Do You Reach in Your Outreach Programs?

6 Jan

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s all cannon-150x150about the journey, not the destination”?  Sure you have.

If you’ve never heard the term “outreach program”, it’s all about seeking to hire qualified women, minorities and veterans into your open positions.  Mostly, government contractors and others doing business with the Federal Government are required to create Affirmative Action Plans as part of their ongoing recruitment efforts.  As part of those plans, there are some components that deal with outreach.  As part of their compliance efforts, that’s how some companies try to fill positions with qualified candidates from specific sectors within the labor market.  So, how does that saying fit into a company’s outreach program?  It’s all about setting out to do what you say you are going to do with respect to informing segmented groups about your company and “reaching out” to them with your job opportunities.  It’s as simple as that.  If you create and follow a comprehensive plan or program that branches out to these specific sectors and you aren’t successful (through no fault of your own) on attaining your goals it may go a long way in assisting you during an audit by demonstrating to the auditor that you put forth your best effort in trying or at the very least, demonstrate how far you were willing to “reach out” to the various groups in your program.  But, how far do you reach?  That’s what’s up for debate currently in the legislation.

If you earnestly go about creating a solid outreach plan, attend diversity job fairs, volunteer to speak at various diversity group meetings and/or training sessions, partner with your local department of labor office and take the time to meet the reps at your local veteran’s office, you should be on track to a great plan.

For more information on how you can track your progress in support of your goals, check out www.sagehrms.com and see how the Sage HRMS system can generate the reports you need to get the job done!


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