PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A bill filed in the Oregon Legislature would prevent workers from being fired for off-the-clock marijuana use, both recreational and medical.
Senate Bill 301 seeks to prohibit “conditioning employment on refraining from any substance that is lawful to use in [Oregon].”
It would also prevent employers from not hiring someone for marijuana use.
At the Terpene Station cannabis shop in Portland, workers say when they first opened, a lot of customers were concerned that their marijuana purchases would get back to their employers. That fear has decreased a little but some still worry.
SB 301 amends ORS 569A.315, which originally protected workers that used lawful tobacco products while on their own time. The bill would update that law to read as follows:
It is an unlawful employment practice for any employer to require, as a condition of employment, that any employee or prospective employee refrain from using a substance that is lawful to use under the laws of this state during nonworking hours.
The bill does provide exceptions if the substance restriction relates to a bona fide occupational qualification or the performance of work while impaired. The protections also don’t apply if an applicable collective bargaining agreement prohibits off-duty use of the legal substance in question.
KOIN 6 News reached out to Sen. Ann Lininger, the sponsor of the bill, to clarify what specific jobs may be exceptions to this bill. She was not available for comment on Friday, but Senator Ted Ferrioli told KOIN he assumes law enforcement and others in public safety jobs would have specific exemptions and he expects many other “drug free workplaces” would want exemptions.
Jesse Wakeley, who is a regular customer at Terpene Station, said he works for a pot-friendly employer but knows not everyone does.
“I feel like what people do on their own and in their own time is their business,” Wakeley told KOIN 6 News.
The budtenders at Terpene said customers have shared their fear of losing their jobs over marijuana use, even after it became legal.
“A lot of people were very concerned about the information of them being in one of these shops getting back to their employers,” budtender Jesse Soto said. “If it isn’t affecting their overall job performance, I don’t see why that should be an offense that is worth being fired over.”
Both Soto and Wakeley believe Senate Bill 301 is a good first step.
Charlie Burr, who is communications director for the Bureau of Labor and Industry, said even though Oregonians legalized weed, “that did not affect employment law.”
“Employers can hire and fire based on marijuana usage, even if that usage is on the weekend and not at work,” Burr said.
A similar situation took place in Lane County when a man was fired for off-duty medical marijuana use. An arbitrator ruled that the county erred in firing him for medical marijuana use that the man says was based on the recommendation of a doctor for side effects from cancer treatment.
He was given his job back and nearly $22,000 in back pay.
Since pot can stay in your system for 30 days, marijuana supporters said protections are needed until accurate, on-the-job testing can be developed.
“Now that it’s legal in Oregon, it makes sense not to get fired for it,” Terpene Station employee Brenna Strassburg said.
KOIN 6 News Reporter Jennifer Dowling contributed to this report.
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