February 6, 2020

Marijuana Bills Could Create Protections for Employment Discrimination

Last July, Healthesystems reported that both New York City and the state of Nevada passed regulations to protect prospective employee’s rights to use marijuana.

In both cases, employers were prohibited from denying employment to a prospective employee over the presence of marijuana in a drug screening test, with exceptions for certain first responders, federal positions, and safety-sensitive occupations.

Now, as legislative sessions begin again, three more states have introduced bills that, if passed, would introduce similar protections across the country.

The Colorado General Assembly introduced House Bill 1089, which prohibits an employer from terminating an employee for the employee’s lawful off-duty activities, even if those activities are not lawful under state law.

The bill’s text specifically calls out marijuana, stating that though marijuana is regulated similar to alcohol in the state, employers can still fire employees over off-duty use, claiming such procedure is an unlawful prohibition.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Legislature introduced House Bill 2740, which would make it unlawful for any employer in the state to fail or refuse to hire a prospective employee due to a drug screening that shows positive results for marijuana use. Exceptions to this bill would include:

  • The hiring of firefighters, EMTs
  • Employment that requires the operation of a motor vehicle and for which federal or state law requires the employee to submit to drug tests
  • Positions of employment funded by a federal grant
  • Employment tied to federal contracts that require specific drug-free workplace policies

Furthermore, the West Virginia Legislature introduced House Bill 4186, which would remove marijuana as a tested substance from the screening requirements of the West Virginia Alcohol and Drug-Free Workplace Act, essentially protecting marijuana users from termination or the denial of hiring when workplaces must obey the act and carry out drug screenings.

And in related news, New Jersey introduced Assembly Bill No. 1708, which would require workers’ compensation and personal injury protection to cover costs associated with medical marijuana. This bill would apply to patients that have tried at least one other type of treatment and found it to be unsuccessful, prior to qualifying for the state’s medical marijuana program.

If more states pass measures such as these, individuals could potentially work under the influence, leading to safety issues that could cause workplace injuries. For further information on marijuana’s impact on workers’ comp, download Healthesystems’ white paper, Clearing the Air: Marijuana Considerations for Workers’ Comp.

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