Missouri’s New Marijuana Amendment: Workplace Testing and Employees “Under the Influence”

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



marijuanaMissouri’s newly approved constitutional Amendment 3 regarding marijuana use will go into effect on December 8, 2022.  With a total of 49 pages, the Amendment 3 has two sections: revised Section 1 (former Amendment 2), which focuses on medicinal use, and Section 2, which focuses on marijuana recreational use.

Employers have long had Drug-Free Workplace policies that test employees for various illegal drugs.  Common tests are pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, and fitness for duty/return to work/follow up after rehab or last chance.

The original Amendment 2 regarding medicinal use was passed in 2018.  Employers responded to this amendment in several ways including choosing to keep their policies the same but providing reasonable accommodation under the disability statutes or to simply quit testing for THC altogether except for reasonable suspicion.

Now, employers will have to go back to the drawing board.

Section 1: Medicinal Use of Marijuana

Section 1 of Amendment 3 revises the original Amendment 2 in its entirety. One of the revisions/additions includes adding a nondiscrimination in employment section. It prohibits employers from discriminating against “medicinal cardholders” based on off-duty use unless the person was “under the influence of medical marijuana” at or during work. Further, it specifically prevents employers from relying solely on a positive THC test result to terminate a medicinal cardholder unless the person used, possessed, or was “under the influence” of medical marijuana at or during work.

There are exceptions to the “under the influence test” for medicinal cards for the following situations:

  1. If the employer would lose a monetary or licensing related benefit under federal law,
  2. If the employee has a job where “legal use of a lawful marijuana product affects in any manner a person’s ability to perform job-related employment responsibilities, or
  3. If it conflicts with a bona fide occupational qualification that is reasonably related to a person’s employment.

This exception protection does not appear to apply to “recreational” users who do not have a “medicinal card.”

There is no readily available test to scientifically confirm whether someone is “under the influence of marijuana” nor what the threshold of impairment is under BAC for alcohol. How long a person will test for marijuana depends on a multitude of factors but is not limited to: Continue reading »

Updated EEO “Know Your Rights” Poster Now Available

David R. Bohm

By David R. Bohm



eeo posterOn October 22, 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued an updated EEO poster, a copy of which is attached to this blog post. This is to replace a previous EEO poster and addendum issued by the EEOC in 2019.

In many cases, employers have posted what is known as a 6-way poster, which sets forth an employee’s rights under various federal laws, including Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act. You may wish to acquire an updated 6-way poster, or you can simply post the October 2022 poster next to the 6-way poster, or over the section on Equal Employment Opportunity on existing 6-way posters.

Who is Required to Post this Notice?

Any employer with more than 15 employees is required to post the updated notice.

When Should I Put This Up? Continue reading »

Missouri Employers and Abortions as Healthcare: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



Authored by Ruth Binger with assistance from Sarah L. Ayers, contributor

supreme courtThe recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization triggered a ban on abortion in Missouri and several states. In 2019, Missouri passed the “The Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act,” an anti-abortion bill which included a trigger ban on abortions. In the event Roe v. Wade was ever overturned, the Governor or Attorney General was to issue a statement implementing the ban. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt issued a statement proclaiming the trigger law in effect as of Friday, June 24, 2022, at 9 a.m. following the Dobbs decision.

A variety of new legal questions related to abortion and healthcare have arisen since the decision was announced and states, such as Missouri, have enacted trigger bans. One example of the confusion involves life-saving abortions in cases of a medical emergency. Under a new regulation issued by the Biden administration, a life-saving abortion in cases of a medical emergency is a federally protected procedure. Leaders in several states have challenged the regulation.

Another issue lies with pre-Roe bans in states which outlaw abortion and whose legality today is still questionable even with the reversal of Roe. Many states with pre-Roe bans are in the process of putting updated laws on the books that either re-affirm restricting abortion or protect abortion. Kansas voters recently rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment stating there is no right to abortion within the state. Other questions raised include: How will the laws be enforced? Who can be charged with conspiracy in states under a ban (such as Missouri)? Can a state with an abortion ban exclude a fetus from being considered a person in other areas of the law? Continue reading »

Sexual Harassment Policies for the Trucking Industry: Best Practices

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



truckingThe current over-the-road driver shortage has created increasing pressures for trucking companies of all sizes. As a result, some trucking companies may be reluctant to terminate – or to not hire – drivers who have been accused of sexual harassment. But this reluctance may not be a good idea in light of Title VII.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation against any employee who complains of sexual harassment to an employer. In addition, Title VII complaints can be filed in any judicial district where: the harassment was alleged to have been committed; the employment records relevant to the harassment claim are maintained and administered; the complainant worked; or if the employer cannot be “found” in one of the first three districts, the complaint can be filed in the district of the employer’s principal place of business.

Continue reading »

Will College Athletes Be Considered Employees?

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



Authored by Attorney Ruth Binger and with assistance from Haley E. Gassel, contributorsports

College athletes generate billions of dollars in revenue for their colleges and universities. As athletes are realizing their value to college sports, they have increasingly engaged in collective action and sued to be considered employees. A recent memorandum by General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) puts this issue on the forefront, indicating that the NLRB is classifying college athletes at academic institutions as employees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

In National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, the Supreme Court held that the NCAA’s restrictions on student athletes being compensated fell within antitrust scrutiny. The unanimous court ruled unanimously that the NCAA cannot prevent athletes from receiving education-related benefits, such as scholarships for graduate or vocational school, payments for academic tutoring, or paid post eligibility internships. The Supreme Court has recognized that college athletes are not amateurs, and they contribute to a profit-making enterprise. Additionally, in Johnson v. NCAA, a federal judge in Pennsylvania held that a group of student athletes plausibly alleged that they were employees of their colleges and universities and allowed their action against their colleges and universities under the Fair Labor Standards Act to proceed. Overall, courts are signaling a willingness to consider arguments that student athletes should be classified as employees. Continue reading »

Unpaid Leave for Victims of Domestic or Sexual Violence Now Required in Missouri

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



Authored by Katherine M. Flett with assistance from Haley E. Gassel, contributor

domestic violenceMissouri employers must now provide unpaid leave and accommodations to employees due to domestic or sexual violence under the Victims’ Economic Safety and Security Act (VESSA).

Employers Covered Under VESSA

  • Employers with 1-19 employees are not subject to these requirements.
  • Employers with 20-49 employees are required to provide one week of unpaid leave per year to employees covered under these statutes.
  • Employers with 50 or more employees are likewise required to provide two weeks of unpaid leave per year to employees covered under these statutes.

Employees Eligible for Unpaid Leave or Accommodations under VESSA

VESSA applies to employees of covered employers who are victims of domestic or sexual violence, or whose family or household member is a victim of domestic or sexual violence. A family or household member is a spouse, parent, daughter, son, someone related by blood or by marriage, someone who shares a relationship through a son or daughter, and anyone jointly residing in the same household.

Reasonable Accommodations

Employers and public agencies are required to make reasonable safety accommodations to the known limitations resulting from circumstances relating to being a victim of domestic or sexual violence or a family or household member of domestic or sexual violence. Reasonable accommodations include: Continue reading »

Business Owners: Private Company in Missouri Wins Challenge to Its COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



vaccine mandateMissouri has its first decision on a challenge to a private company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The U.S. District Court of Western Missouri heard a petition for an injunction against Tyson Foods’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate and the company prevailed. In Reese v. Tyson Foods, Inc., Clifton Reese, a Tyson Foods employee, had requested a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction against Tyson Foods regarding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

In Reese, Tyson announced a vaccine mandate that all employees nationwide to be fully vaccinated by specified dates. The policy stated that employees seeking religious or medical accommodations should contact Tyson human resources “immediately.” Clifton Reese waited a month before making his request for religious accommodation. He refused the company’s accommodation of unpaid leave, but Tyson formally notified Reese that his religious accommodation was granted with the following stipulations:

  1. The accommodation status could change at any time.
  2. Because his accommodation of unpaid leave of absence was not job-protected, the position could be filled if necessary.
  3. If providing the accommodation was an undue hardship to the employer, the accommodation could be revoked. The employee would then have to comply with the mandate or be subject to termination.

Reese filed a complaint with the Missouri Human Rights Commission and sent a demand letter to Tyson to continue his employment under existing COVID-19 restrictions to receive his full bonus, salary, and benefits. During the hearing, the Reese admitted he did not understand benefits he would receive during unpaid leave, such as continuation of health benefits, the ability to look for new employment within or outside of the company, and keeping earned bonuses. Continue reading »

Missouri Employee Not Entitled to Injunctive Relief Against Private Employer’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



vaccine mandateRecently, Clifton Reese, an employee of Tyson Foods, requested a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction against his employer regarding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate in Reese v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

On August 3, 2021, Tyson Foods announced a vaccine mandate which required all employees nationwide to be fully vaccinated by specified dates. Moreover, the policy requested that employees seeking religious or medical accommodations contact human resources “immediately” to allow Tyson time to consider each employee’s request to meet company deadlines. Despite the notification to contact human resources immediately, Reese waited a month before contacting human resources seeking a religious exemption.

In response to his request, Tyson offered Reese an accommodation of an unpaid leave of absence, which he rejected. Tyson then confirmed Reese’s request for a religious exemption from the company vaccine mandate had been granted, the status of the accommodation was subject to change, and if the accommodation was an unpaid leave of absence that was not job-protected, “it may be necessary to fill your position.” Tyson also explained that if providing the accommodation was an undue hardship to the company, the accommodation could be revoked, and Reese would have to either comply with the mandate or be subject to termination.

In response to Tyson’s confirmation of the accommodation, Reese filed a complaint with the Missouri Commission of Human Rights. Reese hired an attorney and sent a demand letter to Tyson demanding that Tyson continue Reese’s employment “with the already existing COVID-19 restrictions in place,” and that he receive his full bonus, salary, and benefits. Tyson said they would review the demand. Continue reading »

Private Employer Mandatory Vaccination Policy With Medical and Religious Accommodations Is Allowed

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



covid vaccineRecently, a group of healthcare workers in Kentucky requested a Temporary Restraining Order and/or a Preliminary Injunction from the U.S. District Court of Eastern Kentucky against an employer’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate in Beckerich, et al. v. St. Elizabeth Medical Center, et al. At question was whether a private employer is allowed to modify its employment conditions to require employees to be vaccinated in response to the unprecedented global pandemic known as COVID-19.

In Beckerich, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center and physicians group implemented a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for its employees. Under the policy, employees could avoid the mandatory vaccination by submitting a request for a medical exemption or sincerely held religious beliefs before October 1, 2021. The policy also indicated that failure of an employee to comply without an accepted exemption could result in termination. The employees argued that the policy violated their constitutional rights and claimed St. Elizabeth’s had not approved religious and medical exemptions to the vaccination policy in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Regarding the ADA claims, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning noted private employers are required to offer medical and religious accommodations but the employees in Beckerich failed to show that St. Elizabeth had not complied with the ADA reasonable accommodations. The evidence revealed St. Elizabeth granted medical exemptions 13% of the time and granted deferments 61% of the time. Only 14% were denied with 10% pending. Judge Bunning noted St. Elizabeth had granted more medical accommodations than there were plaintiffs in the case. No evidence was provided showing that over 5,000 medical and religious exemptions had been requested. The judge determined the employees had very little chance at success on the merits because they failed to meet the key elements to prove an ADA claim.

Regarding Title VII claims, Judge Bunning noted the employees failed to suggest they could raise a preliminary case of religious discrimination. None of the named plaintiffs had been denied a religious exemption with only one marked pending but St. Elizabeth’s noted that request was approved.  Because no religious exemptions were denied, the employees were not able to prove any religious discrimination. Continue reading »

Religious Exemptions to COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates under Title VII and the EEOC’s Additional Guidance

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



covid vaccineWith continued and widespread COVID-19 infection and the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, many employers have instituted COVID-19 vaccination mandates. Title VII requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with sincerely-held religious beliefs that conflict with getting vaccinated. Given that religious beliefs are difficult to disprove, many employees have taken this as an opportunity to request religious exemptions to avoid COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

The Law – Title VII

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of religion and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees claiming their sincerely-held religious beliefs conflict with getting vaccinated. Title VII protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have “sincerely-held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.”

Given this sweeping definition of religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has cautioned that an employer should generally assume that an employee’s request for a religious accommodation is based on a sincerely-held religious belief. Nevertheless, an employer is permitted to question the sincerity of an employee’s purported religious belief where there is an objective basis for doing so. Further, an employer is not required to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and practices if doing so would impose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s legitimate business interests. For the EEOC’s list of factors to be considered when determining whether an accommodation imposes an undue hardship on an employer, visit: EEOC Undue Hardship.

The EEOC’s Guidance on Religious Exemption Requests

On October 25, 2021, the EEOC updated its technical assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which included additional guidance on how employers should handle religious exemption requests (Section L). Read the full EEOC update here.

The key takeaways are:

  1. Employees who have a religious objection to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination must inform their employer and request a reasonable accommodation to be afforded protection under Title VII. Reasonable accommodations may include telework or reassignment.
  2. If an employer has an objective basis for questioning either the religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief, the employer can make a limited factual inquiry seeking additional supporting information.
  3. An employer who objectively demonstrates that it would be an “undue hardship” to accommodate an employee’s request for religious exemption to the employer’s vaccination mandate is not required to provide the accommodation.
  4. An employer is not required to grant all employees’ requests for religious exemptions on the basis that it has granted some employees requests for religious exemptions. The determination is fact-intensive and specific to every request.
  5. While an employer should consider the employee’s preference, if there is more than one reasonable accommodation that would resolve the conflict between the vaccination requirement and the religious belief without undue hardship, the employer may choose which accommodation to offer.
  6. An employer has the right to discontinue a previously granted religious accommodation. If the employer learns that the belief is not religious in nature or sincerely-held, or if the accommodation becomes an undue hardship, the employer can discontinue the accommodation.

Continue reading »

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