By Eric Ruden, Duane Morris LLP
On June 5, 2019, Nevada’s Governor, Steve Sisolak, signed a bill into law banning pre-employment testing from marijuana. Nevada becomes the first state to pass such a ban and follows New York City’s similar ban passed in April 2019, beginning a trend that surely will expand to other jurisdictions.
Under the new law, Nevada employers are prohibited from failing or refusing to hire a prospective employee because the prospective employee submitted to a drug test and the results of the screening indicate the presence of marijuana. The law provides exceptions for firefighters, emergency medical technicians, employees operating a motor vehicle for which federal or state law requires drug testing, or if the position could adversely affect the safety of others. Notably, the law does not prohibit an employer from testing current employees for marijuana.
The law additionally provides that employees who are required to submit to a screening test within the first 30 days of employment have a right to submit to an additional screening test, at the employee’s own expense, to rebut the results of the initial screening. Employers are required to accept and give appropriate consideration to the results of the second screening test.
The law becomes effective on January 1, 2020. Nevada employers should review their drug testing policies prior to the law’s effective date and employers nationwide should be prepared for similar bans to follow this growing trend.
Last week, the New York City Council overwhelmingly approved a new local law to prohibit city employers from testing potential employees for marijuana use. This weekend Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated he will sign the bill. There are certain exceptions, permitting marijuana testing for police, construction workers, child care workers and some others. It also does not prohibit testing of current employees or firing someone for cannabis use. The bill, which would not take effect until one year after the Mayor signs it, applies to any employers in the city, even if their headquarters is elsewhere. The few Republicans who did not support the bill argued that employers should have the freedom to decide whom they wish to hire.
It appears no measure like this that has passed elsewhere, even in states that have legalized adult use of cannabis. Some states’ laws do prohibit discrimination against employees solely because they use medical marijuana. New York’s current proposed cannabis legalization bill, for example, would treat possessing a medical cannabis card as a disability, entitling the holder to certain benefits and protections. This bill, however, also prohibits testing of those using cannabis recreationally.
NYC has been readying itself for the expected passage of legal adult use cannabis in the State at some point this year. While previously opposed to legalization, the Mayor now supports it. Following an embarrassing New York Times story, the Mayor also recently banned the NYPD from arresting folks solely for using marijuana in public. Only traffic tickets can be issued now. Will the Big Apple lead the way in supporting the legal use of cannabis? This new law appears to be an important step in that direction.