New York City Bans Marijuana and THC Testing for Job Applicants

The New York City Council passed the first ever bill that would prohibit employers in that city from testing prospective employees for marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. The bill would make such testing an unlawful discriminatory practice under the New York City Human Rights Law.

The bill is intended to remove a barrier to employment for New Yorkers. The sponsor of the bill, Jumaane Williams, stated that failed tests deplete the labor pool and the ability of many to advance their careers, which is harmful to employers and employees alike.

There are several exceptions to this new bill, which include:

  • Safety and security sensitive jobs, such as police officers and positions requiring a commercial driver’s license, or positions requiring supervision of children, medical patients, and other vulnerable persons.
  • Jobs that require drug testing as a condition of receiving a federal contract or grant
  • Any federal drug testing mandated by the federal Department of Transportation

This bill does not restrict employers from screening applicants for unlawful drugs other than marijuana or THC It also does not restrict testing current employees for marijuana or other drug use.

As the de-criminalization of marijuana continues across the nation, employers should expect laws like the one in NYC to come up for debate in other cities or states. Employers already are struggling with whether it still makes sense to continue to test for marijuana based on the increased social acceptance of the drug and relaxed laws.

Employers have one year to comply with this new law. It is recommended to review and revise all relevant drug testing or substance abuse policies and procedures. NYC employers should prepare to comply with this new law, but others outside of NYC should begin to consider the ramifications of this law and how it may affect them one day.


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