Marijuana- What Employers Should Know

This week’s blog from Lauren Burgon

Washington voters approved Initiative 502 on November 6th leaving many Washington employers wondering how and if they should be amending their policies regarding drug use.

While the passage of Initiative 502 decriminalizes, regulates, and taxes the recreational use and sale of marijuana in the state of Washington, marijuana use and possession remains illegal under federal law.  The new law does not grant new rights to employees with regard to drug use, and zero tolerance policies may still be enforced.  The new law does not contain a provision that would protect employees’ use of the drug at work, nor does it provide individuals protection if they have traces of the drug in their systems while on the job.  In fact, Intuitive 502 is largely silent about its effect on the workplace.

However, the passage of Initiative 502 represents another step in the continuously changing legal landscape regarding marijuana.  When medical marijuana laws started emerging, they sparked lawsuits across the country as employees challenged terminations due to medical marijuana use.  Intuitive 502, while not granting additional rights to employees, is likely to spawn similar lawsuits.

It’s expected that Washington courts will likely rely on its earlier decisions regarding medical marijuana to reject legal challenges to employee terminations based on Initiative 502.  However, as defense costs can be considerable, employers should take steps to avoid becoming the next “test case” in the ongoing evolution of this area of law.

Here are some steps that Washington employers should consider taking:

  • If you don’t already have a written policy addressing illegal drug use in the workplace, consider adopting one.
  • If you do have a written policy addressing illegal drug use in the workplace, revisit it in light of this new law.
  • Any written policy needs to clearly define “illegal drugs” making it clear that if a drug is illegal under either state or federal law, the employer will consider the drug illegal.
  • Consider if you want to include drug testing as part of the policy.
  • Multi-state employers should ensure that their policies comply with state laws that regulate testing, such as Alaska and Idaho, to take advantage of the additional protections that those laws provide.

Should You Access Employees’ Social Media Accounts?

Michelle Bomberger’s article “What’s the Password?” on this topic was recently published in Seattle Business Magazine.  Here’s an excerpt:

Scoping out an employee’s or a potential employee’s online social media life has become a commonplace practice for employers.  Many employers believe that sound reasons exist for requesting access to personal online information.  On the other hand, requesting a Facebook password and other personal access codes is stepping across lines that many think should not be crossed.  

Before entering into these murky waters, employers should tally the benefits gained by accessing employees’ personal online accounts; compare these benefits with the potential negative consequences that could include negative publicity, ethical issues, and exposure to a host of legal issues…

Read the entire article at Seattle Business Magazine.

September 26, 2012


You’ve got great  employees on board and you want to be sure to keep them.  Join us for a seminar highlighting key compensation tools available to help you retain your best people.  You’ll leave this program understanding:

  • How compensation drives employee behavior
  • When cash incentives work and how to structure them
  • What non-monetary compensation tools such as stock and deferred compensation are available and the pros and cons of each
  • Other benefits important to compensation packages that drive employee loyalty and retention

Location: The Partners Group (formerly Baldwin Resource Group)

Executive Education Center
Lincoln Executive Center II- 4th Floor
14432 SE Eastgate Way, Suite 400
Bellevue, WA 98007

Time: 7:30am – 9:30am

Cost:        $100

*Free to Equinox clients and guests

Register for this event

More Information and Registration: or 425-250-0205


Catherine Dovey, Founder & Principal, Compensation Works.  Catherine Dovey CCP, SPHR, has worked in human resources for more than 20 years. Compensation and pay systems are her primary specialty. Depending on client need, Catherine will partner with other experts for specific projects.

Catherine has designed and managed base pay plans, incentive plans, performance management systems and job evaluation systems. Her extensive experience includes union and non-union environments in private companies and nonprofit and public-sector organizations.
Industries served range from finance, health care and food processing to advertising, gaming and manufacturing. SeeClients for more information.

Credentials include a Master’s of Business Administration from Washington State University, Certified Compensation Professional (CCP) through WorldatWork (formerly the American Compensation Association) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) through the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI)

Michelle Bomberger, Managing Attorney, Equinox Business Law Group PLLC. Michelle Hayden Bomberger, founder and Managing Attorney of Equinox Business Law Group PLLC, is an experienced businesswoman turned lawyer.  Michelle began her career in business as a consultant with Ernst & Young LLP serving Fortune 500 clients and fur-ther deepened her knowledge of business operations as a Senior Manager of Auditing Services at Cingular Wireless.  Michelle founded Equinox in 2005 with a mission to help business owners and CEOs find balance in business.  Michelle attended graduate school at Northwestern University in Chicago, obtaining a JD from the School of Law and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.  She has an undergraduate degree in Finance and Computer Applications from the University of Notre Dame.

Seattle Paid Sick Leave Ordinance – An Example

As we review the provisions of the new Seattle Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, we thought we’d provide some examples to show some of the issues and complexities of the ordinance.

Anchorage Accounting is an accounting firm with its principal office in Anchorage Alaska.  It has 6 full time employees in Alaska, 2 full time employees in Seattle, and 1 in Spokane.

On November 15, 2012, Sheila, one of its Seattle employees, notifies the company that she must take some time off to find a safe place for herself and her daughter to live because her relationship with her live-in boyfriend has deteriorated and she no longer feels safe living with him.  Sheila requests three paid days off in order to find new housing.

Is Anchorage Accounting required to provide to Sheila three days paid leave in this scenario?  No.

Is Anchorage Accounting required to provide paid sick/safe time off to its Seattle employees?  Yes. Anchorage Accounting meets the minimum size requirements, and must provide an hour of sick/safe paid time off to its Seattle employees for every 40 hours that they work.

Does Sheila’s request qualify as “safe time off” under the Seattle Ordinance?  Yes.  The Seattle Ordinance definition of “safe time off” includes time “For reasons related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking that affect the employee or the employee’s family member”, with “family member” is defined as a child, spouse, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, or person with whom the employee has a dating relationship.”

Is Sheila entitled to three days paid time off?  No.  As of November 15, 2012, Sheila is most likely entitled to only about 11 hours of paid sick/safe leave under the ordinance, as she did not start to accrue sick/safe time until the September 1, 2012 effective date of the ordinance.  Sick/safe time is accrued at the rate of 1 hour for every 40 hours worked.

Note, however, that the employer has the option of providing more generous paid leave benefits than those set forth in the ordinance.  The ordinance sets forth minimums, but does not place limits.  Therefore, depending on the employer’s existing paid leave policy, Sheila may be entitled to other forms of paid leave.

If Sheila’s paid time off request was on November 15, 2013, would Sheila be entitled to such time off?  Yes.  Sheila would be entitled to the three days paid time off, provided she had accrued, and not yet used, sufficient time.

Can Anchorage Accounting require that Sheila provide documentation regarding her requested time off?   No.  The employer may not require documentation for use of paid safe leave unless the employee is absent for more than three consecutive days.  After three consecutive days, an employer may require documentation.

Hiring and Promoting the Best People that Fit into Your Organization

Our guest blog post is from Bert Holeton, President of The Mastermind Group ( 


When it comes to choosing the right individual to join your organization, or the right individual to promote into a key position, or the right combination of individuals to form a team – it’s all about performance and fit. To get PERFORMANCE, you need to be able to:

– Select the right people for the right positions

– Develop the right people to be their best and deliver results

– Transform groups of people into high-performing teams


The right FIT elevates the performance of the right people – but fit to what?

– Their responsibilities

– Their direct supervisor

– Any group of people they need to team with

– The culture of the organization

It is possible to PREDICT PERFORMANCE AND FIT before you make decisions about people. Here’s what you need to know:

Passion & Purpose: What lies behind our innate and unchanging nature. What are this individual’s core values and purpose in life?

Experience & Knowledge: Our education, work experience, training, industry knowledge, and skills. What verified experience and knowledge does this individual bring to the position?

Critical Thinking: Our capacity to perceive the core issues that are driving the problems, conceive workable solutions to those problems, and implement those solutions. What is this individual’s capacity to leverage his experience and knowledge in this environment?

Focus of Thinking: The natural priority path we follow to face challenges, solve problems, and make effective decisions. How will this individual naturally choose to implement his critical thinking?

Workplace Motivators: The factors that drive and motivate us in the workplace, which influence our decision-making and impact how we apply ourselves. How will this individual prioritize his focus of thinking?

Natural Behaviors: The way we each deliver our focused critical thinking and core values into the world. How will this individual naturally tend to act on his motivations?

Team Dynamics: The way in which people work together – on a project team, an executive team, or a board of directors. Is there a strategic fit (alignment) or a tactical fit (balance)? Are there any potential problems – such as too many similarities, too many differences, or missing talent in any area?

Armed with this awareness, you can make people decisions that:

– Retain high-performing employees

– Increase individual and team morale and satisfaction

– Improve decision-making to achieve better results

– Align your people to the corporate goals