Ask HR: If pot is legal, can employees still get in trouble? Also, what to do when a peer becomes your boss
Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human-resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is the president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world's largest HR professional society.
The questions submitted by readers and Taylor's answers below have been edited for length and clarity. Have an HR question you think he can answer? Submit it here.
Ask HR:My female boss jokingly called me a 'slut.' Also, do I have to answer salary questions?
Question: How does an employer effectively balance corporate policies of a drug-free workplace with the legalization of marijuana becoming more common, both for recreational and prescription use? I work in HR for a commercial construction general contractor.What are your thoughts on best practices to protect the company, job-site work teams, the general public and the employees' rights? — Mila S.
Answer: Marijuana use by employees (in or out of the workplace) is a complex issue given that many states have legalized medical and recreational weed. On one hand, the employee should be allowed to do what she wants to do on her private time. On the other hand, employers have an obligation to put safety first.
Imagine if a commercial airline pilot who lives in a state where marijuana is legal decides to smoke a joint a couple of hours before reporting to work. While his state allows him the "right" to consume marijuana, the airline has an "obligation" to ensure that the person transporting 200-plus people 30,000 feet in the air is not under the influence.
As if this weren't complicated enough, we often forget marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and drug testing can detect marijuana in an employee's system but it cannot yet determine whether the person is impaired.
All of this presents a dilemma for HR professionals in most workplaces. In your case, I think the answer is clearer. Given that you hire people to work in safety-sensitive positions, you can and should drug test after a job offer is made and before a worker comes on board, as well as after a workplace accident or based on reasonable suspicion.
If a prospective employee decides he does not want to submit to this type of testing and invasion into his off-duty activities, he can find a job with another employer.
Q: Any advice for how to cope when peers take on the role of a supervisor/manager? A person who I considered a friend got a promotion — great for her, awkward for me. I'm horrified that she knows my salary and will be doing my annual review. Can we still be friendly? — Jane D.
A: Whenever a peer, and especially a friend, becomes a manager within the same department, there is an adjustment period. You should stay friendly, but know that your relationship is going to change. And trust me, your new manager is going through a similar angst.
Consider that there are two big advantages for you:
Working for a new manager is always a learning curve, so you may have an edge because of your existing relationship. Don't assume, however, that you will be given special treatment.
Second, the new manager may rely on you to a greater degree than others because of the trust you already have built.
Here is how I would approach the situation:
Step 1: Accept that change has occurred and that your relationship will therefore change. You must intentionally compartmentalize your personal friendship from your work relationship.
Step 2: Talk to your new manager about how she wants to adjust your relationship. For example, she may want some distance at first to avoid claims of preferential treatment. Honestly, this could be a benefit to both of you.
Step 3: Treat your new manager with the same level of respect as you did previous supervisors and work at the same performance level. Your former boss knew your salary and performed your annual performance review, too.
Step 4: Understand that the previous relationship with your new manager could have an impact on relationships with other peers. Be careful to maintain the confidences of your co-workers and refrain from divulging personal information to your new manager and damaging the critical trust of your team.
Step 5: Celebrate the success of your friend (now boss)! This is what we call a “high class problem.”
You may also be interested in:
More:'What's your salary?' becomes a no-no in job interviews
Salaries:Why you need a raise instead of a bonus
Where you work:Is your workplace one of the 'Fortune' 100 best companies?