May 19, 2020
Employers in New York City are prohibited from testing applicants for marijuana usage as of May 10, 2020.
Beginning on May 10, 2020, employers in New York City may not screen job applicants for marijuana or THC. Organizations may still conduct drug tests on prospective employees as long as long as they do not include those substances. This ban was passed in April 2019 but delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Organizations that do not comply with this ban could face civil charges. Penalties can be as high as $25,000. When applicable, consequential and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees, can be added to that cost.
Employers should also be aware of and compliant with any other relevant laws regarding marijuana usage and employee protections where they operate.
Certain positions are exempt from this ban. They include:
• Police or Peace Officers.
• Positions that require a commercial driver’s license or fall under Department of Transportation regulations.
• Workers who will supervise children, medical patients or vulnerable populations.
• Positions that require drug testing under federal or state regulations or grant conditions.
• Positions that may affect the health and safety of other employees or the public.
• Safety sensitive jobs, such as people who work at construction sites or operate heavy machinery.
Jumaane Williams, a Public Advocate who sponsored the ban, opposes these exceptions. Williams said: “Creating more exemptions and loopholes to this law will unjustifiably deter qualified employees from obtaining gainful employment,” he wrote. “Maintaining the original intent of the legislation, the City should be pushing to reduce the stigma around marijuana and working to restore justice for the millions of black and brown communities who have been the victims of marijuana criminalization and discrimination.”
Employers in New York City may wish to update their hiring policies to ensure they are compliant with this ban. Before finalizing these updates, it may be worthwhile to have them reviewed and approved by legal counsel.
Employment-related laws are passed frequently. Employers everywhere are encouraged to review their hiring and screening policies periodically to ensure they accommodate relevant laws. Backgrounds Online does not provide legal advice, but we do make efforts to keep up with bills that affect employers so we can provide educational resources like this blog.
When hiring new workers or reviewing the eligibility of existing employees, it is important for organizations to conduct all reasonable forms of due diligence. Running background checks is an important part of this process. These reports can include allowable drug tests, criminal records searches and position-focused components. They help employers make informed decisions and create safe workplaces while protecting employees, the public and their own best interests.
If your organization is bringing on new staff members, contractors or volunteers, please contact us. Our experienced team can help you build compliant and effective background check packages for any position or industry. We are currently available to assist you Monday through Friday from 7am to 6pm PT.