Recreational Marijuana Legalized in Nevada

By Megan Annis, Client Care and HR Manager


Though marijuana remains illegal under federal law, effective January 1, 2017, Nevada voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older. As such, marijuana use by employees is expected to rise and increase the volume of marijuana-related issues in the workplace.

Employees May Not Use or Possess Marijuana At Work

Nevada law allows employers to prohibit marijuana use and possession by employees while at work. Employers also have the right to terminate or discipline employees who violate workplace policies prohibiting the use, possession, or impairment by marijuana while at work (barring certain accommodation obligations).

Off-Duty Marijuana Use and Positive Drug Tests

If an employee appears to be impaired at work, employers can send the employee for a reasonable suspicion drug test. First, the behaviors in question must be carefully documented. It can be challenging to determine when an employee is under the influence or impaired at work. It may be “easier” if the employee is visibly affected or slow to react; however, side effects from marijuana vary from person to person. As a result, employers should not automatically assume that someone was “under the influence” if their drug screen comes back positive. Steps must be taken to evaluate if legal medical marijuana accommodations are required before the employee is disciplined or terminated.

Reasonable Accommodations For Medical Marijuana Users

Nevada’s medical marijuana law requires that employers attempt to make reasonable accommodations for the medical needs of an employee who holds a valid medical marijuana card, subject to certain limitations. Specifically, employers do not need to provide reasonable accommodations that would:

(a) Pose a threat of harm or danger to persons or property or impose an undue hardship on the employer; or
(b) Prohibit the employee from fulfilling any and all of his or her job responsibilities.


Employers are advised to engage in an interactive process with an employee who holds a valid medical marijuana card before taking any negative employment action due to the employee’s off-duty marijuana use.

  1. If the employee tests positive for marijuana, the question becomes why the employee is taking the marijuana. Employers must first determine if the employee has a valid medical marijuana card.
  2. If the employee is taking marijuana for medical reasons, the employer must evaluate if they can reasonably accommodate the employee’s medical needs, including the use of off-duty medical marijuana (and further accommodations may be needed for the potential underlying medical condition that necessitates the marijuana consumption).
  3. If this was simply recreational use, the employee may be terminated in compliance with the company’s drug and alcohol policy. Or, the employer may choose to consider marijuana a lawful product, and remind the employee that they cannot be impaired at work. Further signs of impairment may lead to termination.

Note: There is no reasonable accommodation requirement for recreational marijuana use.

Workers’ Compensation and Marijuana

If an employee has a lawful medical marijuana prescription, a positive test following a Workers’ Compensation injury should be treated the same as a positive test for any other lawfully prescribed drug.

Final Thoughts

If faced with a positive marijuana drug test result, ask the applicant/employee if he or she holds a valid medical marijuana card, and if so, determine whether an accommodation for off-duty medical marijuana must be made. Take time to remind employees of your policies in light of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. Remember that as your partners in business, we’re here to help guide you through these uncomfortable conversations to ensure the best outcome for your employees and your business.

Positivity vs. negativity in the workplace

By Jim Annis, CEO


It’s morning. You wake up, throw your feet over the bed and – oops! – there’s the family dog. What do you do? Kick the dog? Or pet the dog? That’s always been my litmus test about whether a person has a positive versus negative attitude. I would pet the dog … err … if I had one.

What about in the work setting? I can honestly say that I used to work for the most negative guy in the world. The perspective taught me that positivity is so much more important that anyone realizes. Workplace attitudes affect every person in the organization, from the employees to the company owner – and it truly starts from the top. Attitudes influence the overarching workplace environment, which in turn determines employee morale, productivity and team-building abilities. Understanding this relationship is an important tool in creating a harmonious workplace — but even more important, it is imperative to develop a great place to work with high employee engagement.


Accepting a compliment gracefully or helping to create a positive atmosphere itself releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. It also helps regulate movement and emotional response, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. Bottom line: People’s brains respond to positivity naturally.

Being positive for positive’s sake isn’t enough. I’ve also learned over the years that positivity has to be genuine. Over the years, my employees have taught me that my optimism can get in the way of being real at times, which can impede decision-making. We have all run across people who are positive but they are more “sizzle than steak,” or there is something artificial going on. Authenticity is invaluable. The loudest, biggest, most popular person at a party isn’t the steak – their sizzle is “all about me.”

Successful leaders are typically positive, not negative. When you are truly interested in maintaining relationships with colleagues, have sincere interest in a person, provide support for one another, are kind and compassionate, forgive mistakes, inspire one another – all these are aspects of positivity in the workplace. If you are truly thrilled when you see other people succeed, that is an example of meaningful work. Meaningful work builds loyalty in any organization and provides a sense of security.

The inevitable

Sooner or later you will get the negative employee. Typical characteristics include all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, labeling, jumping to conclusions and blaming others. Negativity leads to distrust, a cutthroat environment, pressure and stress, and it’s harmful to productivity. Negative-attitude employees are typically hard to manage and you get sucked into the negativity. Overcoming that one toxic person is exhausting. In fact, it takes five positive comments to overcome one negative. However, being a critical thinker does not mean you are negative. You cannot have a kumbaya. You need some type of tension at work as an impetus to change, or you would be bored and lack innovation.

How to get it

Dale Carnegie said, “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” Life’s obstacles are limitless. A positive attitude at work – starting at home with petting the dog – is the only way to minimize negative impacts and maximize joy. Who doesn’t want to be joyful?

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

View original in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Skilled labor or higher education? There’s third way

Not really. There is a third path — one that is bigger and global, where we move away from assuming that all high school seniors go on to college or trade school or anything at all but “ad hoc” training.

Is this a case of “what’s old is new again?” No. This is big. When we — and hopefully school counselors — sit down to talk to our children about their future, we would be remiss to only talk about the “old ways.” That simply is not the amorphous reality our kids face tomorrow. Here’s why.

Higher education

The age-old stigma that “you could have done better” — if you do not go to college and you love something not requiring a college degree like becoming an auto mechanic — has faded. Today, college graduates are heavily in debt, have difficulty finding jobs, apply to hundreds of positions without hearing back from one potential employer. U.S. employers have a bad reputation for insisting on perfectly qualified candidate delivered on a silver spoon or they won’t hire, resulting in a “skills standoff.” Employers want workers to fill a role right away without any training. Why spend the money on an employee who may leave short-term? To get a job, you have to have that job already. Filling a job vacancy is like inserting a part into a washing machine. You either are the part or you aren’t. So the employer waits … and waits … resulting in both millions of unemployed people and unfilled job positions.

Skilled labor

Our region has a huge deficit of qualified skilled workers. Compared to higher ed, apprenticeships are the new college, without the debt. That’s attractive. EDAWN’s big push for certification training (which can result in a good-paying job right away) might be what we need to support industry. But is it what today’s job seekers want? Does Nevada’s high-school-educated population have the skills to pass the reading, writing and math skills test requirements for today’s modern warehouse or manufacturing jobs where the modern toolbox is now the computer?

The “other” options

Creating it: What about the grade-school-aged kid being home-schooled through online ed who has a great idea and starts a company, then never goes to traditional high school, college or trade school at all? With a strong set of mentors, a problem worth solving and an idea that seems strong, kids – not just adults – are converting their passion into entrepreneurial profit-generating businesses.

Gigging it: Upwork and the Freelancers Union annual report found that 55 million more people chose to freelance this year, or 35 percent of the total U.S. workforce. Almost 81 percent of traditional workers surveyed said they would “be willing to do additional work outside of (their) primary job if it was available and enabled (them) to make more money.” Freelancers in the “gig economy” select projects around the world, while employers can select the best individuals from a global pool. Rather than being forced into a position or resolving to their inability to attain employment, giggers pick up whatever temporary gigs they can land (think Uber). People tend to change jobs several times throughout their working lives and the gig economy is an evolution of that trend.

How do we prepare our kids?

Our work experience will differ vastly from theirs. Their friends might already be coding and creating their own apps for sale on Google Play. Artificial intelligence, software and robotics are replacing human labor and or doing things more quickly, which has displaced some industries altogether. Traditional postsecondary education is not a fluid enough solution. What education will be required for this shifting, out-of-the-box cultural and business environment? We might not be able to guide them. They will probably be comforting us on how to adjust to their workplace reality while creating their customized education tools as they go.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.


Read original published in the Reno-Gazette Journal here.