Small businesses aren’t worried that employees might come to work a little stoned, but inhaling on the job is definitely frowned upon by most small business owners, a survey by a workers compensation insurer reveals.

According to the results of a survey of small business owners facilitated by specialty workers compensation insurer EMPLOYERS, 81 percent said they were unconcerned that their employees would come to work under the influence of marijuana even though it is becoming legal in more states.


In addition, only a small percentage said they actually dealt with that situation or a similar one. Just 1-in-10 said that employees have shown up for work under the influence of a controlled substance, including marijuana, alcohol or narcotic painkillers.

In a statement about the survey, EMPLOYERS noted that marijuana has become legal in 24 states for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Still, 62 percent of small business owners surveyed said they would not allow an employee who has a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana to use it while at work. Only 19 percent said they would allow it, while another 17 percent were unsure.


“We encourage all small businesses to maintain drug-free workplaces because employees who are under the influence of illicit substances, or misuse or abuse prescription drugs, can put themselves, other employees or customers at risk of injury or other harm,” said Dr. Dwight Robertson, medical director at EMPLOYERS, in a statement. “The most important step employers can take is to have a clearly documented workplace safety policy that specifically addresses drug use in the workplace.”

The EMPLOYERS survey found, however, that 42 percent of small businesses do not have a written policy prohibiting employees from possessing, using or being under the influence of marijuana at work.

Dr. Robertson offers three tips for developing and assessing a drug-free policy:

  • Build employee awareness.

Maintaining a drug-free workplace starts with educating employees about the dangers of drug use on the job and assuring they understand the company’s policies pertaining to it.

  • Establish guidelines.

Create a drug-free workplace policy that informs employees about the specific drug-related activities that are prohibited as part of their employment. These should specifically address: prohibiting manufacturing, distributing or dispensing marijuana or other controlled or illicit substances; which substances are prohibited by the company; what the consequences are for failing to comply with company policies.

Some businesses go a step further and require periodic drug testing for all employees. The survey found, however, that nearly three-quarters of small businesses (74 percent) do not require their employees to take drug tests.

  • Enforce consequences.

In addition to communicating what the consequences are if an employee fails to follow company policy, they also need to be enforced. For many businesses, failure to comply with a drug-free workplace policy can result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

All employees should be aware of rules and regulations as well as consequences of using controlled or illicit substances on the job, he said.

EMPLOYERS added that business owners should consult an attorney in their state before implementing a drug-free workplace policy.

About the Survey

EMPLOYERS facilitated a telephone survey of small business decision-makers in May 2015 through the SSRS Small Business Omnibus Survey. Interviews were completed with a nationally representative sample of 501 small businesses that have fewer than 100 employees. Data were weighted by number of employees, region and industry to reflect the proportion of small businesses in the United States.

About Employers Holdings Inc.

Employers Holdings Inc. is a holding company with subsidiaries that are specialty providers of workers compensation insurance and services focused on select small businesses engaged in low- to medium-hazard industries. The company, through its subsidiaries, operates throughout the United States. Insurance is offered by Employers Insurance Co. of Nevada, Employers Compensation Insurance Co., Employers Preferred Insurance Co. and Employers Assurance Co.