New York City Council Passes Bill Banning Pre-employment Marijuana Drug Testing

On April 9, 2019, the New York City Council enacted a bill banning pre-employment testing for marijuana use. The bill passed on a 41−4 vote and is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The City Council’s bill prohibits New York City employers from requiring a prospective employee to submit to a marijuana drug test as a condition of employment. The bill includes exceptions for safety and security sensitive jobs and those tied to a federal or state contract or grant. Law enforcement personnel, commercial drivers and construction workers specifically are exempted under the bill. Any positions requiring the supervision and care of children, medical patients or vulnerable persons also are exempted. Despite these exemptions, the bill will affect public and private employers throughout New York City, including those with headquarters in other states.

The bill was sponsored by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo and New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera. According to Williams, “As we push for legalization on a state level, it makes absolutely no sense that we’re keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use.” If Mayor de Blasio signs the bill into law, it will become effective in 2020.

At this time, it is unclear what impact this bill will have on employers whose employees test positive after they are hired. Examples may include testing that occurs after a workplace accident or when employers learn about an employee’s cannabis use for medical/recreational purposes post-hire. We recommend that employers with employees in New York City work with their employment law counsel to review their screening and policies surrounding drug testing in light of this bill.

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