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James Oh, Kathleen Barrett Quoted in “Can I Get Fired for Using Marijuana? Your Legal Weed Questions Answered”

WBEZ News

James J. Oh, Member of the Firm, and Kathleen A. Barrett, Associate, in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Chicago office, were quoted in WBEZ News, in “Can I Get Fired for Using Marijuana? Your Legal Weed Questions Answered,” by Mariah Woelfel.

Following is an excerpt:

Picture this: your child’s elementary school teacher, your doctor, maybe your tax accountant — smoking a joint.

It’s something that may be hard to imagine, maybe it even makes you cringe. But that could change as weed becomes more common across Illinois. And we've gotten several questions from people who want to know: can I get fired for partaking? 

That was on the mind of one reader, Meagan, who did not want us to use her last name when she asked: “If people were to use weed recreationally outside of their normal working hours, could they still be fired if they are randomly drug tested?”

The short answer to Meagan’s question is yes. Employers have the right, under Illinois’ new marijuana law, to fire an employee for failing a drug test. But consumers and employers need to know: it could get complicated.

Here’s a breakdown of things to consider when deciding whether to light up legally. …

“States are not interpreting the statutes consistently,” said Kathleen Barrett, an associate attorney representing Illinois employers for Epstein Becker Green. “At first you started off with a lot of employer-friendly decisions but then you see a transition to more employee-friendly decisions.” …

And advice to employers from the experts? Review and update your policies now rather than later, and have an open dialogue with your employees.

“Tell employees what your policy is, what your philosophy is and generally what the rules are,” said Chicago employment attorney Jimmy Oh. “I think there are many an employee who … have questions but they’re afraid to ask them because they don’t want their employer to think they’re a stoner.”