The Royal Canadian Mounted Police attracted national attention last month when one of their officers challenged the RCMP about being able to smoke medicinal marijuana while on the job and in uniform.
Cpl. Ronald Francis serves with the RCMP in New Brunswick and on November 4th, he received a prescription for medical-grade marijuana to combat his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms. His prescription allows for three grams (approximately 9-15 joints) a day. According to Francis, smoking marijuana has no impact on his ability to be a police officer. He also added that he has full intentions to continue smoking on the job and while in uniform (Source: CBC).
“There’s no policy in the RCMP that prevents me from smoking marijuana. There’s no policy in the RCMP that says I cannot smoke in public. I have the right to smoke it in my red serge.”
In an attempt to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder, Francis was filmed smoking marijuana while in uniform and the situation quickly went viral and attracted national attention. (Source: National Post)
Was the RCMP accommodating Francis' PTSD?
Moreau agreed that the RCMP has a duty to accommodate the medical needs of their members, but he also added that they “must also consider the effect on other members and on public perceptions”. (Source: CBC) The RCMP initially provided Francis with treatment for his PTSD through an occupational stress injury clinic – part of a program the force has put in place specifically for members who experience mental health difficulties. However, Francis soon began seeking out alternative treatments.
“Because this is relatively new for active members of the RCMP, we are looking at the internal policies to see, how do we set it up? To say, OK, if somebody is prescribed medical marijuana and they have to take it two or three times a day and have to take it at work, where is this going to take place? If it takes place outside, it has to respect the individual but also their co-workers, and it has to respect the Canadian population at large by taking it in a respectful way.” (Moreau)
Update on the situation
Things quickly escalated upon release of the video footage of Francis smoking marijuana in public. On November 28th, Francis was stripped of his duties and placed on medical leave. He had his regular work uniform seized and was ordered to turn in his red serge uniform the following day.
The story escalated even further on December 6th when Francis was charged with assaulting a fellow officer. According to Cst. Julie Rogers-March, the incident took place as the Mounties attempted to locate him for a “wellness check” due to concerns about his medical condition. It is alleged that Francis assaulted an RCMP officer and a stun gun was then used to control the situation. Francis is currently undergoing a 30-day psychiatric assessment (Source: The Star).
Legal responsibilities for employers
This is a precedent-setting case for the RCMP as well as many other companies across Canada. It raises the overarching question - how should employers manage employees who are prescribed medical marijuana – particularly those who are engaged in public safety. Should they be provided with designated spaces at work? Should they be given modified duties?
An employer does have the right to challenge medical treatments it considers inappropriate by seeking a second medical opinion. In addition to this, an employer can also evaluate any worker that obtains a medical marijuana prescription (or any other inappropriate or questionable treatment) to ensure that they are not impaired in judgement or motor skills. In the event that the worker is impaired in some way, the employer can place limits on the type or nature of work the worker is permitted to perform.
In this case, prior to his medical leave placement, Francis was given modified duties by the RCMP to ensure that he was never doing work that would have been “remotely understood to have been police-related.” The RCMP also released a statement saying that they are continuously looking at strengthening supports for officers with operational stress injuries and are looking at its policies to define how it manages members who have been prescribed medicinal marijuana. (Source: MacLeans)
What do you think?
There has been a lot of discussion and controversy surrounding this case. Saint John MP Rodney Weston said that the RCMP’s decision to seize Francis’s uniform created some confusion among local citizens. Some questioned the response given the fact that Francis does have a prescription for medicinal marijuana. Others were supportive of the decision saying that, when you’re part of an institution like that, you need to understand the importance of the values that uniform represents and preserve that. So what do you think? Leave your responses in the comments section below.
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With the end of the year rapidly approaching, let's take a look back at some of the events and developments of 2013 - particularly those that have impacted HR professionals, business owners, and claim managers:
Have any other news items that we missed? Add them in the Comments section.
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In mid-November of 2013, the Ontario government filed a new regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) that requires employers to ensure that workers and supervisors receive mandatory safety awareness training. The Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation (O. Reg. 297/13), will come into effect on July 1, 2014, allowing workplace parties time to prepare. (Source: MOL)
This blog will provide you with more information about this regulation, an overview of your new training obligations, and identify a number of resources that you can use to assist you in becoming compliant.
What does this mean for employers?
According to this new regulation, employers are required to:
In addition to these new training requirements, employers must continue to carry out their pre-existing duties and obligations under the OHSA. These include the general duty to “provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety or the worker.” (Clause 25 (2)(a))
According to the regulation, training for workers must also include instruction on:
According to the regulation, training for supervisors must also include instruction on:
The Ministry of Labour is providing a number of resources and tools to help employers become compliant with this new regulation by July 2014. Employers are not required to use these specific ministry resources, as long as they training they provide covers all of the necessary content outlined above (Source: MOL).
There are a number of workbooks available for employers that can be printed or ordered through Publications Ontario. In addition to this, there are two electronic training tools available online for free. These modules can be completed by workers and supervisors as one way to meet the minimum training required by the regulation:
Already conducted health and safety training at your workplace? Be sure to review the content of that training and determine whether it was sufficient to fulfill the requirements of this new legislation. When reviewing your existing training, be sure to also identify all parties who may fall within the definition of worker and supervisor, ensuring that they have been or will be provided with the necessary training. (Source: Hicks Morley)
If your previous training meets the basic content requirements outlined by the OHSA, and there is written proof that the training was completed, you will likely be exempt from the need to retrain workers and supervisors. If that is not the case, employers should seek to revise their training programs to be in compliance with this new regulation.
Although there are basic training materials available to employers (see resources above), there are benefits to providing more complete and in-depth health and safety training to new or existing workers and supervisors. Not only will it likely enhance worker and supervisor safety, it will also aid in the prevention of accidents and ultimately the reduction of WSIB costs on the employer’s NEER statement.
Need help putting together a complete health and safety training? Clear Path's Health and Safety team provides the training, policy development, and expertise you need to succeed in the area of Health and Safety. Contact us today!
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