New York City Set to Sign Law that will Ban Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing

Apr 29, 2019
| David Pearson
New York City Bans Pre-Employment Testing for Marijuana

There’s been a lot of employment legislation news coming from New Jersey in recent months. From state-run retirement plans to paid family leave expansion, the Garden State and its lawmakers have been busy.

But across the Hudson River, New York City has also been addressing worker concerns through new and updated laws. The latest came on April 9th, when the New York City Council passed new legislation that would impact how employers approach hiring new staff members.

Let’s take a closer look at this bill that if signed by the mayor could take effect in early 2020.

Banning Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing in New York City

The legislation passed in early April by the New York City Council would prohibit most employers in the city from requiring job seekers to take pre-employment drug screenings for the presence of tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana.

It’s expected that Mayor Bill de Blasio will soon sign the law, which will amend the New York City Human Rights Law and make it a discriminatory practice for employers to ask job candidates to take drug tests for marijuana as a condition of employment in New York City.

Though the law will prevent drug screening for marijuana, it will not permit employees to show up to work under the influence or otherwise impaired. It also doesn’t stop employers from testing current workers or taking disciplinary actions if they were to fail a test if already employed.

The legislation will officially take effect one year after the date it is signed by the mayor.

Does the Law Apply to All NYC Employers?

Like most employment legislation, there are certain exceptions where an employer can still drug screen for marijuana during the pre-employment phase. These mostly fall under “safety-sensitive positions,” such as:
  • Law enforcement
  • Positions that require a commercial driver’s license
  • Positions that require the supervision of children, medical patients, or vulnerable persons
  • Positions that could impact the health or safety of employees or members of the public

In addition, the law won’t prohibit drug testing for marijuana in accordance with:
  • Federal, state, and local department of transportation regulations
  • Federal contracts
  • Federal or state law that requires pre-employment drug testing for safety or security reasons
  • A collective bargaining agreement

Some legal experts and industry professionals believe that further regulations may come from the New York City Commission on Human Rights later this year that will provide more details around the law and its exceptions.

What Do New York City Employers Have to Do?

With Mayor de Blasio expected to sign the law imminently, employers will have one year to prepare for when it takes effect.

This means that employers will need to assess their hiring practices and strategies to ensure that they won’t violate the new drug screening law. If a company currently screens for marijuana during the pre-employment process (and don’t fall under one of the exceptions), they must alter this step to ensure any drug test administered doesn’t screen for THC.

Failing to do so could result in fines, penalties, and potential lawsuits for failing to adhere to the law.

Business leaders and owners should consult with HR and compliance professionals if they are unsure of how to prepare for this legislation.

Additionally, employers should keep up with the latest news surrounding this new law to ensure they are as educated and informed as possible about its effective date and what actions they may have to take to stay compliant.

One area of HR is becoming increasingly more difficult for small employers to properly handle — maintaining compliance with employment laws. Download our eBook, Guide to Employment Law: Topics Employers Must Know to Stay Compliant, to learn more about some of the biggest trends and topics in employment law.

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