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Marijuana is Legal in My State: What Should HR Professionals Do to Prepare?

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

By Diane Buisman - Employment Attorney & Regional Director for Vigilant


Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, including four states that allow for recreational use. In Alaska, adults 21 or older can now transport, buy or possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants.

Colorado and Washington were the first two states to allow for legalized recreational marijuana thanks to ballot measures passed in 2012.

The District of Columbia became the most recent jurisdiction to join the trend; its voter-approved measure took effect in February, legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Oregon voters approved a similar measure last fall, which will take effect on July 1, allowing adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in public and eight ounces in their NCHRA Connect Blog - Marijuana Drug Policies in the workplacehomes.

Many other states have passed medical marijuana laws allowing for limited use of cannabis for medical treatment, with possession limits and eligible medical conditions varying from state to state.

So what is potential impact for employers?

Human resources professionals, who don’t consider this question now, may be surprised by the variety of issues they’ll face as legalized marijuana increasingly becomes part of our national culture. Going forward, HR professionals in any state where marijuana possession and use is legal (including medicinal marijuana use), should also expect a growing number of questions from employees. Be prepared to educate employees about the company’s drug policy and how it applies to legalized marijuana. Employees need to understand that even if using marijuana is legal in their state, testing positive at work can impact their job.

New drug and alcohol policies in the workplace.

For those companies that don’t have drug policies currently in effect, preparing for legalized marijuana will take a little longer. A company needs to first decide whether implementing a drug and alcohol policy is right for their workplace, depending on their industry, the safety-sensitive nature of their work environment, and the company culture. If a company wants to move forward with implementation, they’ll need to make important policy decisions, such as which substances to ban, whether to conduct drug testing, and the consequences of violating the policy. Rolling out a new drug and alcohol policy takes time and effort, requiring communication and training for employees and managers about new rights and responsibilities. 

Employers who are already conducting drug testing should expect an increase in positive test results. According to Quest Diagnostics, a national lab that provides workplace drug testing, Colorado and Washington have seen an increase in positive drug tests in the general workforce by 20 and 23 percent respectively between 2012 and 2013.  Employers in states where marijuana has become legally available should anticipate a similar outcome.

Is a positive test result is an actual and true measurement?

Another question that has emerged for many human resources professionals is whether or not an employee who tests positive for marijuana is actually impaired. Urine drug testing is the federal government’s preferred method for testing workers in safety-sensitive positions, and at least one study has shown that cognitive impairment from marijuana use may last up to 28 days. For these reasons, many employers have “zero tolerance” policies, meaning any presence of marijuana in the system would trigger a positive test result. Zero tolerance is especially appealing for employers in safety-sensitive industries, since any possibility of impairment could jeopardize employee safety.

For example, someone who used marijuana two weeks ago may test positive, but it’s unknown whether the employee is actually impaired by that previous use. Due to this uncertainty, some employers are uncomfortable with zero tolerance policies. One Oregon manufacturer we work with employs over 200 people. The company decided that zero tolerance isn’t a good fit for their company in light of legalized marijuana. However, the company has been grappling with identifying what level of marijuana would trigger a positive test result. The company is looking for a creative way to allow leniency for marijuana use while balancing the safety-sensitive issues at play.

Without more sophisticated testing methods, employers who want to test for marijuana, but don’t want to adopt zero tolerance, are forced to make an educated guess about impairment levels. Some employers have decided to abandon drug testing altogether; we’ve seen several employers in Washington, mostly office environments, choose this route following marijuana legalization. Since safety is less of a factor for these companies, there’s less of an upside to ongoing drug testing.


The one-size solution doesn’t fit all.

Legalized marijuana introduces a host of new questions and challenges for HR departments, and there aren’t any one-size-fits-all solutions. Human resources professionals should be prepared to answer questions from employees, as well as evaluate the best strategy and approach to marijuana use in your workplace. If legalization has become a reality in your state or city, now is the time to review your current drug and alcohol policy and tackle these difficult decisions.


About the Author


Diane Buisman - Employment Attorney - NCHRA Connect Blog


Diane Buisman is an employment attorney and the regional director at Vigilant. Headquartered in Oregon, Vigilant is dedicated to helping companies in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and California solve complex employment issues such as employment law, learning and development, safety and HR best practices. Connect with Diane on Linkedin.


Tags:  Attorney  behavior  Blog  Buisman  employee  Employment  HR  Human Resources  Legalized  management  Marijuana  NCHRA  Policies  Vigilant  workforce  workplace 

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HR Management and Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

Posted By Administration - Laurie Pehar Borsh , Thursday, April 9, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2015

Without sufficient training on understanding culture diversity, managers who are thrown into a diverse workforce can and will inevitably cross a cultural line with employees.


In many cases, this can happen without a manager even being aware of the consequences of their lack of knowledge regarding the individual's culture.


Those managers who are armed with a better understanding of “cultural intelligence” are better equipped to perform their jobs—and be of great value to company as they are able to communicate more effectively with employees.


The story of “Sam” offers a look into what happens when this lack of cultural intelligence leads to the resignation of a valued employee. Sam was a typical young man from Nepal.  He was raised in a blend of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. When something is wrong, these beliefs embrace looking inward for correction before looking outward. Being kind, generous, respectful and helpful are traits of a traditional Nepalese. Sam was not traditional in that he came to the United States to escape persecution from the Maoist. The son of farmers, he was the first in his family to attend college. He had the drive and ambition to better himself and to give back to his family from whom he received tremendous emotional support.


Not only did Sam graduate with a B.S. in Business Administration, he also applied and was accepted into a California State University Master’s program. Sam's family was financially unable to assist in his education. He worked through University to pay for his education. By all accounts, Sam was an excellent employee and manager in several retail jobs. After graduation, he interviewed and was offered a position with a large retail company. Sam loved his job and thrived in his position, and was promoted several times. Yet Sam left his job after experiencing a total lack of cultural intelligence from a new manager the company had brought in.


Read Sam’s accounting of his experience here.

After a period of time, Sam reached out to his university professors for guidance on how best to move forward. He slowly regained his confidence and, subsequently, took his managerial expertise to another company. This company is committed to providing cultural awareness to its multinational employees. Since Sam started his new position, the company has reaped the rewards of increased profit and high morale simultaneously. His story highlights how the understanding of the culture of your workforce is crucial to the success of any manager. With regularity, companies lose some of their best employees because of the lack of knowledge new managers have about various cultures. “Knowing Your Employees” becomes an important mantra for managers in the workplace.


Peter Drucker, the “Father of Management,” said that the most difficult mistakes to overcome are personnel mistakes because, for the most part, the mistake is irreversible. In this instance, the company lost a valuable employee who, by all accounts, would have developed into a management asset. He possessed the knowledge, personality and cultural awareness missing in his manager. Drucker goes on to say that building on the strengths of the employee instead of focusing on weaknesses, perceived or real, is the key to retention of valuable employees. Being educated on the cultural background of the individual employee, coupled with strength building, is a recipe for success. This manager seemed to have a personal, instead of company, agenda in her actions with Sam and never took into account how his cultural background would affect the end result.


What’s the solution? Simply put, training and education. There are several ways in which companies can achieve this goal. Outsourcing, as well as in house seminars and workshops on cultural awareness, can be effective, albeit sometimes expensive and time consuming. For those companies that find outsourcing an onerous solution, there is an excellent alternative. Hybrid Management is a company founded on the Peter Drucker principles of management. It offers an online 2-way review process based on the assumption that both employees have different views and cultures but need to collaborate with one another in the workplace. More information on this online resource can be found at A company who recognizes the importance of cultural intelligence as a necessary component in hiring managers, and takes the necessary steps to train and educate its employees, will reap immediate tangible results. The benefits are manifested simultaneously in the increased morale and profitability of the company. 



About the Authors

Vikki A. Adams, Esq.
Over the course of her legal career, Vikki Adams was an International Trade & Immigration partner in three AmLaw 100 law firms.  Subsequently, she served in the Office of Foreign Missions, US Department of State before re-entering the private sector.  She is the founder and President of UnicoConcepts, a globally recognized international business and cultural intelligence consulting company. She is currently authoring a book on cultural intelligence in international business.  Vikki resides in San Rafael, California. Connect with Vikki on Linkedin.


Suroj Maharjan, MBA StudentSuroj Maharjan was born into a family of farmers from Kathmandu Valley in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal. He is the first in his family to obtain any kind of formal education.  Due to unrest in his country, and with the support of his family, Suroj came to the United States and pursued his education.  He currently is an MBA student and resides in Rohnert Park, California. Connect with Suroj on Linkedin

Tags:  cultural  culture  diversity  employee  HR  human resources  leadership  management  NCHRA  workforce  workplace 

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Make the Most of March Madness in the Workplace ... Next Year!

Posted By Laura Kerekes, Thursday, April 2, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 2, 2015

Unlike other sporting events like the Super Bowl or World Series, March Madness is a prolonged event; this year it started on Selection Sunday, March 15th, with the first games starting March 17th through this weekend, the "Final Four" and ending with the championship game this Monday, April 6th. There were numerous games played in between those dates – some of which were aired throughout the workday, making it an enticing distraction for many employees!

Cell phones and computers make it easy for employees to regularly and “secretly” check pools, scores, and even streaming games online. It’s inevitable that March Madness is going to impact office productivity, but if managed correctly, it’s also a great opportunity to establish an annual ritual that builds office morale, employee engagement, and comradery.

The ball is ultimately in your court to decide how March Madness fits within your culture; however, the million-dollar question: should employers put a stop to it or embrace it?

Madness Management
Some managers believe it’s all about meeting numbers and employees need to stay focused during work hours and save personal interests during personal time.

The reality is, it’s impossible to stop employees from being distracted during March Madness. In fact, Challenger Gray & Christmas reported “the cost in terms of lost wages paid to distracted and unproductive workers [due to March Madness] could reach as high as $1.9 billion.” However, other reports suggest the potential boost in employee morale outweighs the temporary distraction and productivity loss due to the games.

Bottom line: how you manage and communicate policies during March Madness is key.

Foster Team Spirit and Boost Morale
For managers who want to ensure employees feel valued and satisfied at work, they look for opportunities like March Madness to create fun and camaraderie.

A recent survey by OfficeTeam reported that half of senior managers said activities tied to the tournament – such as office pools focused on the 68-team brackets — boost employee morale, while 36 percent believe March Madness has a positive impact on workplace productivity.

Middle of the Road Madness
Some managers evaluate performance or attendance situations on a case-by-case basis and won’t encourage March Madness activity or pools during the workday. In fact, most managers tend to look the other way and only step in when work falls to the wayside.

Some experts argue that employers have bigger issues to address than whether a few workers are using work time to fill out brackets or checking scores online, and that businesses would be better served by allowing this minor distraction, even during busy work times.

Once the Madness Begins . . .
Whatever you decide, here are some ways to help minimize disruptions and create a positive work environment during March Madness:

• Organize a company-wide pool with no entry fee in order to avoid ethical or legal issues surrounding “office gambling.” Give away a company “gift” (not cash) to the pool winner.

• Make the break room the go-to place for bracket updates and consider putting a television in the break room so that employees have somewhere to watch the games other than the Internet.

• Encourage team spirit and allow employees to wear their favorite team’s clothing and/or decorate their workspace in their team’s colors.

• Allow employees the chance to arrive early on days when tournament games are played during work hours so they can work a full shift and still leave in time to see the games.

• Communicate company policies with employees before engaging in any March Madness activities at work, so it will be clear what is acceptable.

Like it or not, March Madness is an annual ritual that’s here to stay. If customers are happy and the work is getting done, it might be worth the positive employee experience and moral boost. After all, a little distraction could be just what everyone at the office needs. However, if an employee fails to meet a deadline or if customer service suffers as a result of March Madness distractions, then take action. The key is finding a balance that maximizes the positives while minimizing the business disruptions.

Laura Kerekes leads the HR services delivery teams, including an elite group of HR experts and a team responsible for ongoing aggregation and analysis of HR knowledge for ThinkHR. Prior to joining the company, Laura held executive HR officer positions for large multi-national companies including AirTouch and Sygen as well as other companies in high tech, financial services and consumer products industries. Laura holds an M.B.A. with honors in HR and organizational development from Golden Gate University, a B.S. in business administration with honors from The Ohio State University, and an Executive Human Resources Management certification from Stanford University. She also holds an SPHR certification. Connect with Laura on Twitter and LinkedIn

Tags:  behavior  employee  final four  HR  madness  management  march  morale  NCHRA  office  productivity  SHRM  ThinkHR  workplace 

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How to Transform Disengaged Employees into Engaged Employees

Posted By Matthew Coleman - MyEmployees, Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Transform Disengaged Employees into Engaged Employees


Here in the US, we have a real problem with disengaged employees. On January 28, Amy Adkins of Gallup confirmed this when she released this: “Majority of US Employees Not Engaged Despite Gains in 2014.” As you can probably guess from her title, there’s good news and bad news.

On the bright side, employee engagement is at its highest level since 2000, and overall employee engagement was up 2% from 2013 to 2014. That takes us all the way up to 31.5% of US employees engaged at work. It’s good, but only in the “sort of” sense. There’s still a lot of work to be done.

Now for the bad news. The level of employees categorized as “not engaged” remained basically flat. It now sits at 51%. Yes, that’s over half of the US workforce. For “actively disengaged employees”... it’s 17.5%. Combined, that’s a mind-numbing 68.5% of employees who are apathetic, unenthusiastic, and not committed to the company. Essentially, they punch the clock, count down the hours, and collect their paycheck. That’s it! Nothing else.

Maritz Research recently polled a sampling of US employees and found a prevalent theme: Lack of trust in company management. The research uncovered, “poor communication, lack of perceived caring, inconsistent behavior, and perceptions of favoritism were cited by respondents as the largest contributors to their lack of trust in senior leaders.”

The same Maritz study revealed that nearly two-thirds of participants, who said they had “strong trust in management,” would be happy to spend the rest of their career with their present company. Only 7% of respondents, who have weak trust in their employers, would want to finish their career with their current employer. That tells us a lot, doesn’t it?

What does all this mean for HR?


When you’re tasked with finding, screening, recruiting, and training job applicants... where does employee engagement have its greatest impact?

Consider the immense monetary value in having happy, engaged, motivated, long-term employees. Employee retention not only saves a great deal of money, but also saves a great deal of time and resources that would be better spent finding and training new employees. Those recovered resources can now be devoted to developing and enhancing existing employees, leading to more loyalty to the company and an even higher level of employee engagement.

For employees, the credibility of the company and senior management is driven largely by the quality of relationships that employees have with their direct supervisors. It is imperative for HR to insist that all managers have a caring relationship with all their employees.

Managers need their employees to be engaged and productive for the ultimate success of the business. You can have all the pizza parties, stock option plans, employee awards, fancy software packages, and casual Friday’s you want, but true employee engagement isn’t an activity. It’s a deeply-felt “emotion” in the heart of each employee.

Employee trust is a critical factor. Employee engagement is what makes the difference between an average organization and a world class organization. In a world class organization, employees truly care about the success of the company. They’re the ones who will work hard to make sure your clients, guests, and customers are happy.

It’s been proven, time after time, that companies with world class engagement experience increased productivity, increased profitability, fewer safety incidents, lower absenteeism, and a significantly higher growth rate compared to companies with disengaged employees. That means more money to the company’s bottom line. Less waste, more profits!

HR can influence and inspire managers to make this vision a reality by helping them understand the WIIFM principle (What’s In It For Me). Let’s look at the payoff in terms of what it can do for their career. Managers of world class companies are significantly more successful than the average US manager. This means a much higher annual income and more frequent promotions.

So, how do you transform disengaged employees?


Answer: You have to put employees first. Zig Ziglar said, “To get what you want in life, you must first help others get what they want.”

When talking about employee engagement, managers must help every one of their employees to be engaged, motivated, and productive. This means truly caring about the work they’re doing and their happiness with the company. The results will mean success for the employee, success for management, success for HR, and ultimately, success for the company.


Co-Authors: David Long is CEO of MyEmployees and Author of the best-selling management leadership book, Built to Lead. Matthew Coleman is the Marketing Manager for MyEmployees. The mission of MyEmployees is to engage America’s workforce, one manager, one employee at a time… forging stronger companies in the process.

Tags:  blog  Built to Lead  David Long  employee  engagement  HR  human resources  leadership  Matthew Coleman  MyEmployees  NCHRA  WIIFM  workforce 

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HR West 2015 was a huge success!

Posted By Amy S. Powers, Monday, March 9, 2015

Thank you to all who came out to the 31st annual HR West conference. What a fantastic time we had! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. To our members, to the HR community, to our sponsors, presenters, and keynotes - for your dedication to human resources. Without you there would be no us!


It is an honor to serve the country’s most vibrant HR community. Whether you came for the connections, the coffee, the next practice techniques, or to fall in love with your job all over again, a good time was had by all.


Stay tuned for photos, but in the meantime we thought we'd share a few of the "Twitter pic" highlights (#NCHRA #HRWest)!


Mark your calendar for March 7-9, 2016 and be on the lookout for registration announcements. If you register by 7/30/15, you can get the full 2016 conference for just $693! 

Tags:  Annual  Bay Area  California  HR  NCHRA  Oakland  San Francisco  SHRM  West 

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