Tuesday, 20 September 2022 14:47

New California Law Puts Limits on Employer Drug Testing and Policies

Written by Madison Hirneisen, The Center Square


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California employers will soon be unable to disqualify job applicants or fire a worker based on off-the-job cannabis use under a new bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Experts say proving discrimination could prove difficult.


Starting in 2024, Assembly Bill 2188 will make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against or penalize an employee for cannabis use away from work. The bill also prevents employers from discriminating against workers and job applicants based on a drug screening test that detects “non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites” in hair, blood or urine.


The bill, signed by the governor Sept. 18, specifies that employees are not permitted to be impaired by cannabis at work and notes the law does not apply to building and construction trades or employees hired for federal government positions that require a urine test. 


Supporters of the legislation say the measure will allow employers to transition away from urine drug tests, which can pick up on metabolites from cannabis used days or weeks prior to the test. Instead, employers will either not test at all or use other methods for testing, such as oral swabs, that can detect more recent drug use and the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical compound that can cause impairment.


“In California, once this takes effect, most employees will not be subjected to pre-employment urine testing that can determine that they’ve used cannabis days or weeks beforehand before applying for the job, and those already employed won’t be subject to that testing post-accident or for other reasons,” advocacy group California NORML Deputy Director Ellen Komp told The Center Square. “It’ll bring about more equity, more fairness and I think a better workforce.”


Similar to other cases involving discrimination, however, it could be very hard to prove that an applicant wasn’t selected for a job or an employee was fired based on a urine drug test unless the employer outright says so, California Employment Lawyers Association Policy Director Mariko Yoshihara told The Center Square. 


“If a person thinks that they were not hired because of...

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