AutoNation Changes Cannabis Policy for Applicants

Jan 31, 2018

AutoNation Inc. is bucking long-held corporate practices by hiring applicants who test positive for marijuana.

The Florida based company made this change two years ago as more states legalized the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana.

With 26,000 employees, AutoNation is the largest automobile chain in the U.S.  This new hiring practice could signal a change for other large corporate companies.  The Chief Executive Officer, Mike Jackson, said that company changed its policy after some reflection and concluded that it was not fair to exclude candidates who tested positive for marijuana. 

AutoNation’s policy does not extend to other drugs considered illegal.  They will continue to disqualify employment candidates who test positive for other substances like cocaine.  

Not Everyone is Onboard

Retail behemoth, Wal-Mart, was embroiled in a lawsuit with an employee fired after testing positive for marijuana.  The employee, Joseph Casias, who was diagnosed with sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor sustained a knee injury while working at Wal-Mart.  Traditional painkillers were not working for Casias, so he was prescribed medical marijuana to manage his pain, by a qualified physician under Michigan law. 

Casias, a five-year employee, who claims he never went to work high, said he was fired from a Battle Creek, Mich store when he reported to work one morning. 

His termination led him to file a lawsuit against the company for discrimination.  The court ruled in favor of Wal-Mart, concluding that the company was well within their right to terminate Casias and that the state's medical marijuana law does not protect employees from dismissal.  

Working Under the Influence                            

While Casias is emphatic that he did not go to work while under the influence of marijuana, nearly half of Americans in states where the drug is legal admit to going to work high

An instamotor poll revealed that three-quarters of those who admitted to using before work felt like they performed better at their jobs but half of them feared they would be fired if their supervisor knew they were high.  Employees who claim that cannabis use on the job improved their productivity may have an argument regarding their efficiency. 

A German study showed that marijuana may help improve focus in adults diagnosed with Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD).  ADD and ADHD are not conditions currently recognized as qualifying illnesses in states with medical marijuana programs, however, some are advocating to use cannabis as an alternative treatment to conventional medicines.

Companies Should Reconsider Cannabis Policies

John Challenger, with the employment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, believe that more employers adopt cannabis-friendly hiring policies like AutoNation.  In a Bloomberg, article Challenger argues that companies do not test for alcohol like they do for marijuana ”so why would they do it for pot?”.  He continued, “As the war for talent grows and gets fiercer, it makes no sense to rule out a whole segment of candidates on something that just is no longer relevant.”

As more states join the 29 with medical marijuana programs.  We will inevitably see more cases like Joesph Casias as companies try to sort out best practices around marijuana use and hiring.    



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