Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Marijuana in the Workplace: Bill Would Bar Firing

It seems like every employer is conducting mandatory drug testing these days. In states like California, where medical pot use has been legal since 1996, this can cause problems for employees legally using marijuana with a doctor's prescription. 

Enter state Senator Mark Leno, who this week introduced a bill to prohibit employers from firing employees who are using marijuana under California state law when not on the job. The bill would also make it illegal for employers to base a hiring decision solely on the fact that someone uses medical marijuana, the AP reports.

The introduction of Sen. Mark Leno's bill comes on the heels of the November defeat of Proposition 19, which sought to legalize marijuana across the board. Mindful of weary attitudes towards medical pot use, and pot use in general, the bill exempts workers in "safety sensitive jobs," such as doctors, nurses, bus drivers, and those who operate heavy machinery, details the Associated Press. Additionally, workers may not go to work under the influence.

In nearly two-thirds of states, employers may screen for drugs and alcohol so long as certain procedural safeguards are met. Employers may conduct pre-employment screenings only if they do so for every applicant, and once on the job, may not do so in a discriminatory manner. However, beyond these basic principles, laws vary from state to state.

In California, employers may only conduct tests in four circumstances:

  • pre-employment,
  • randomly according to written procedure,
  • when there is reasonable suspicion to believe an employee is under the influence,
  • and after an accident.

Contrast this with Montana, where legislators have also been grappling with the tension between medical pot use and drug testing. Montana is much stricter than California, restricting testing to employees involved in certain professions, such as security, fiduciary positions, and hazardous materials.

Related Resources: