Help Wanted, No Pot Test Required: New NYC Law Takes Effect

The New York law bans companies from requiring pre-employment testing for marijuana, with some exceptions

A help wanted sign.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

New York City has barred many employers from making job applicants get tested for marijuana use, under a law that took effect over the weekend.

It passed last year as the nation's biggest city took a novel step in the evolving regulation of workplace policies about pot. A few months later, Nevada passed a similar law — it says applicants can't be turned down for failing a pot test — that went into effect Jan. 1.

Unlike in Nevada, recreational pot is illegal in New York. Medicinal use is allowed.

The New York law bans companies from requiring pre-employment testing for marijuana, with exceptions for applicants for police, child-care, commercial driving and some other jobs. The measure doesn’t stop employers from testing current workers, or from firing them if they fail.

Supporters of the testing ban said job-seekers were unfairly being judged on private behavior, rather than professional ability.

“Particularly now, as we are grappling with how to recover from the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst levels of unemployment in a century, we need to be creating more access points for employment, not less," city Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a Democrat who sponsored the law, said in a statement Tuesday.

But some City Council members and business groups have said private companies should be free to exercise their own judgment on whether marijuana use is relevant to hiring.

Drug-testing job applicants became common in the U.S. in the late 1980s, but marijuana screening is getting some reconsideration as the drug gains legal ground. Most states now have medicinal marijuana programs, and 11 states and the District of Columbia allow recreational pot use.

Medical marijuana users in multiple states have won lawsuits in recent years against companies that rescinded job offers or fired workers because of positive tests for pot.

Washington, D.C., prohibits marijuana testing before a job offer is extended. Some states apply the same standard to testing for any drugs.

A number of businesses around the country have decided on their own to stop marijuana-testing applicants.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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