Management Update
Magic Mushrooms and Marijuana: Just Say… "OK?"

In a move that would have scandalized Nancy Reagan, voters in at least six states and Washington DC decided on Election Day to approve various drug-related initiatives. In light of these changes, employers should review their handbooks, policies, and procedures to determine if the new laws might affect them. To reduce the risk of a charge, claim, or lawsuit alleging disability discrimination, employers should also proceed with caution when disciplining or terminating employees who use marijuana and similar substances for medical reasons.

Putting the fun back in fungi, Oregon voters approved a new measure that allows the use of magic mushrooms (or more specifically psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms) for certain medical uses, such as treatment for anxiety and depression. Another successful Oregon measure “decriminalizes” the possession of small amounts of hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines. Of course, psilocybin, heroine, cocaine, and methamphetamines remain illegal under federal law.

Following Oregon’s lead, voters in Washington DC adopted Initiative 81, which “decriminalizes” the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of “entheogenic plants and fungi.” However, the initiative does not allow for the commercial sale of such plants or fungi.

And while Americans remain divided on some issues, marijuana may no longer be one of them. Denizens of both red and blue states voted to permit use of the drug, which remains illegal under federal law. In Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, new legislation allows the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, and Mississippi and South Dakota passed initiatives allowing the use of medical marijuana.

To be safe, employers—especially those with physical operations and/or “work-from-home” employees in multiple states—should revisit their employee policies and procedures to ensure compliance with applicable local, state, and federal laws.
Holiday Party Useful Tips to Consider

Some employers have moved away from holiday parties. However, many, including BS&W, continue to host holiday parties for employees, and some even continue to provide adult beverages at these parties. Below are some useful tips to consider if you do so.

Explain to management that they are “on duty”:
  • They must watch drinking and related behavior
  • Remember professional boundaries
  • Do not drive employees home after the party, regardless of how intoxicated they appear
  • Do not “after-party” with staff
  • “No” means no
  • Use the “mom test” (i.e. if you wouldn’t do/say it to your mom or in front of your mom, then don’t do/say it at the function.)

Remind employees that you want them to have fun, but:
  • Attendance is voluntary, but if they attend normal standards of conduct still apply
  • Misconduct at or after the party will lead to disciplinary action
  • Drink responsibly
  • “No” means no
  • No marijuana (even if they have a physician’s recommendation)
  • Encourage designated drivers or even provide free Uber or Lyft rides

For everyone:
  • Follow the “one wine, one water” rule (it is hard to get drunk if you drink a full glass or two of water between every alcoholic drink)
  • No dirty dancing
  • No sleep-overs after the party (or couch surfing)
  • And for goodness sake, please don’t hang mistletoe!
Don't Violate Louisiana's Governmental Ethics Laws This Holiday Gift-Giving Season When It Comes to Public Employees

It is that time of the year again – governmental ethics violations when gift giving to public employees. Louisiana’s governmental ethics laws significantly restrict – in fact, virtually eliminate – the giving of gifts to public employees from businesses in the private sector that do business with them. That innocent holiday gift is actually against the law. Simply put, when it comes to gift giving and governmental ethics, they simply do not mix.

Louisiana law prohibits a public employee from being given “anything of economic value” by anyone seeking a contractual, business, or financial relationship with the public servant’s agency or anyone who is seeking to influence the passage or defeat legislation by the public servant’s agency. This means that traditional gift baskets of Louisiana spices, pecans, wine, or any other product is a violation of the governmental ethics law if the giver has a business relationship with the public employee’s agency. And it is not only a violation of the ethics law to give a public employee such a gift; rather, the public employee’s acceptance of the gift also violates Louisiana’s governmental ethics law.

Practically, the only thing that a person or company can give to a public employee with whom they have a contractual business or financial relationship is a greeting card; or a calendar or pen that does not have any resale value. But you can give your child’s teacher a nominal gift. You can also pay for a public employee’s meal as long as its value does not exceed $62.00 and you are dining with them.

But he/she is my friend! The standard excuse for violating the governmental ethics laws during the holiday season. Louisiana’s governmental ethics laws do not recognize this excuse as a defense to a violation. Simply put, friendship – no matter how close – does not matter.

Businesses need to keep in mind that they can probably not give the gift they may want to give to a public employee. Always check with legal counsel.

Otherwise, for each gift you give in violation of the governmental ethics laws you face a $10,000.00 fine and possible criminal charges. As for the recipient, the penalty can be all of those penalties and forfeiture of the gift. For both, the giver and receiver, the penalty always includes a public sanction – which could affect the giver’s ability to do business in the future in the State of Louisiana and, for the recipient, could be detrimental to their future success.
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Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, L.L.P. Labor & Employment Attorneys
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