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New Nevada Law Protects Job Applicants Who Test Positive for Pot

the cannabis leaf and judge gavel
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 14, 2019 6:00 AM

"It is unlawful for any employer in this State to fail or refuse to hire a prospective employee because the prospective employee submitted to a screening test and the results of the screening test indicate the presence of marijuana."

That's quite the job protection statute. Even states that have legalized recreational marijuana haven't gone so far as to ensure lawful pot smokers aren't fired (or not hired) for toking up. But Nevada isn't like most states. And starting next year, most employers in Nevada will be barred from refusing to hire someone just because they tested positive for weed.

New Law

The new law, set to go into effect January 1, 2020, does have some exceptions. The protections to do not apply to applicants seeking a job:

  • As a firefighter;
  • As an emergency medical technician;
  • That requires an employee to operate a motor vehicle and for which federal or state law requires the employee to submit to screening tests; or
  • That, in the determination of the employer, could adversely affect the safety of others.

"As our legal cannabis industry continues to flourish, it's important to ensure that the door of economic opportunity remains open for all Nevadans," Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said. "That's why I was proud to sign AB132 into law, which contains common-sense exceptions for public safety and transportation professionals."

Old Ground

As noted above, Nevada's law is the first of its kind after the state legalized recreational marijuana in 2016. Notably, Colorado was one of the first states to legalize it, and yet the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that an employer could fire an employee for testing positive for pot, even if they were never high at work and only used medical marijuana to treat violent muscle spasms. And this is despite a state law that specifically states: "It shall be a discriminatory or unfair employment practice for an employer to terminate the employment of any employee due to that employee's engaging in any lawful activity off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours." So, Nevada's employee protection law is certainly an outlier.

Of course, small business employers could always go the opposite direction, and be more friendly to weed smoking employees than state law requires. When setting your own office marijuana policy, work with an experienced local employment attorney to make sure it complies with state and federal statutes.

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