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Dobbeck: New laws call for new workplace policies

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 4:44 p.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

With the passage of new laws in Illinois, employers would be wise to update their policies. Below are three that are effective now, even though all of the rules have not yet been written.

Conceal and carry: Under this new law, Illinoisans now have the right to carry concealed arms. Businesses also have rights. As an employer, you may prohibit any type of weapon, including firearms, in the workplace.   

Businesses who wish to remain weapons free must post a sign in each door. The card can be found on my website, www.hrtechniques.biz, under the posters, forms and links tab or on the Illinois State Police website, www.isp.state.il.us. It is 6 inches by 4 inches and shows a gun with a red circle and line through it. It also indicates the conceal and carry statute. Businesses who wish all property, such as a country club or park to remain weapons free, must post the sign at the entrance to the property.  

Those holding conceal and carry permits are, however, allowed to have weapons in their vehicles. Also permitted is transporting the weapon from the body of the car to the trunk.  

Finally, businesses that have an employee handbook need to include language prohibiting weapons in the workplace if the business wishes to be weapons free. The policy can be a stand-alone or, if the business has a workplace violence policy, the title of the policy can be changed to Weapon- and Violence-Free Workplace and specific weapon-free language should be included.

Medical marijuana: As with all other prescription drugs, medical marijuana use may be limited during working hours and also if its use will prevent an employee from working safely. If you have safety rules, take a minute to see whether they address the use of prescription drugs for employees working in dangerous surroundings or on dangerous equipment – including operating vehicles.

If you have a Drug-Free Workplace policy, medical marijuana use will be treated the same as the use of any other prescription drug. If you do not such a policy, consider adding one to your handbook or other company policies. If your company is a government contractor, it must adopt a Drug-Free Workplace Policy with specific government contract language.

Many businesses have agreements with occupational health facilities. If your business does, discuss medical marijuana use with them to learn how they will be screening and whether a medical review will be provided to determine if the marijuana is being used consistently with the prescription. If a medical review is not part of the arrangement, consider adding it. There may be an additional cost, which will be worth it in the long run. 

Hands-free driving: Since Jan. 1, everyone in Illinois must be hands-free while driving. This means employees cannot use a phone for any purpose while driving unless the use is completely hands-free. In just the past few weeks, I have learned of several tickets being issued when the phone is not in use, but simply in the hand of the driver, so please beware.

Some cars are equipped with systems enabling hands-free use. If your company vehicles do not have this type of system, please consider providing Bluetooth technology to your employees who are tasked with driving as part of their work duties.

Finally, businesses that have a policy regarding cellphone use should check to see what it says and add language in support of the new Illinois law.

• Karla Dobbeck is president of Human Resource Techniques Inc. Reach her at 847-289-4504 or email karlad@hrtechniques.biz.

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