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Medical marijuana: Employer rights and obligations on testing

A recent news headline might have caught your eye. It reads, "More businesses are mellowing out over hiring pot smokers." The thrust of the item by The Associated Press is that employers across the country, desperate to fill jobs, are beginning to ease drug testing policies by eliminating marijuana from the list of suspect substances checked for in prospective new hires.

Experts cited in the article say the move reflects the fact that it's more difficult today to find qualified candidates for a growing number of open positions and that marijuana tests only make matters worse. One attorney is quoted as saying, "I have heard from lots of clients things like, 'I can't staff the third shift and test for marijuana.'" Even the current administration's labor secretary has suggested employers "step back" on drug testing.

It seems clear that the easing of restrictions on marijuana use in recent years is contributing to this situation. Nearly 10 states now regulate but allow recreational marijuana use. Another 29, including Pennsylvania, allow marijuana to treat medical conditions.

The fast-changing landscape on marijuana certainly means legacy employers and entrepreneurs seeking to start new businesses are facing unique legal challenges. Major issues to address can include such things as:

  • Drafting employment policies that meet your needs while protecting employee privacy
  • Identifying and managing background check and screening methods that pass legal muster
  • Finding ways to mitigate hiring risks while avoiding potential discrimination liability

Such matters have serious implications not just in employment, but across the entire spectrum of business operations. For the sake of current success and the achievement of long-term goals, be confident in your legal positions by consulting skilled employment law attorneys.

Questions to be answered regarding unpaid internships

During the summer, it is fairly common for companies to offer internships to high school and college students. Students get valuable experience with a company that improves their job prospects after they graduate, and employers get an opportunity to audition prospective employees.

While some internships come with a fair wage, others are unpaid. Given state and federal employment laws, are unpaid internships legal?

The quick answer is: it depends on the circumstances. Generally speaking, unpaid internships may comply with state and federal wage and hour laws if they satisfy certain criteria.  These rules are in place so that employers do circumvent federal minimum wage laws by simply naming seasonal temporary employees "interns." This post will highlight a few of the factors the U.S. Department of Labor may use to determine if an unpaid internship properly follows federal law. 

Whether the experience supplements classroom - An unpaid internship must utilize or expand upon training or education previously provided in a classroom environment. This may mean that a particular class must have been completed as a prerequisite to the internship.

The intern must benefit from the job - In the same vein, the intern usually receives some type of academic credit that will be used to satisfy graduation requirements.  

Regular employees can still work - Permanent employees must not be displaced by unpaid interns, and any interns working on a temporary basis must be supervised by an existing, permanent employee.

If you are putting together a new internship program or have accepted students into one and have questions about proper compensation, an experienced employment law attorney can advise you.

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