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Employers Grapple With Legalization And Worker's Compensation


An annual forum on workers' compensation included more information about Illinois' new recreational marijuana legalization.  The Southern Illinois Healthcare Symposium addressed the impacts of legalization and how it might change the way employers deal with worker's compensation cases.

Mary Egan, a substance abuse counselor with Rosecrance, a behavioral health service provider, says just because marijuana is legal doesn't mean people can't develop a substance abuse problem. Employers may need to have difficult conversations if they see someone is struggling to perform at work.

"So if there are signs and symptoms at work, that's, to me a sign that this is progressed from just once in a while use is that somebody can't get through the day or it's impacting their ability to be successful in their job role," Mary said.

Jim Egan, an attorney with Keefe, Campbell and Biery, says it's too soon for workman's compensation cases involving marijuana use to have made it through the courts. One issue will be interpreting drug test results in the event of an accident or injury, to identify whether an employee was using marijuana on their own time, or were actively impaired at work.

He said employers must be clear that the workplace is a drug and alcohol free environment, with no exceptions.

"You cannot discriminate against someone who might partake on their own, or [is] using it for medicinal purposes," Jim said.


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