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NYC Bans Pre-Employment Drug Testing

June 6th, 2019 Victoria Breese

The New York City Council recently passed a bill that bans employers from requiring job applicants to complete pre-employment drug testing for marijuana or THC. However, employers can still conduct drug testing for other federally illicit drugs, such as opiates. The new law was passed by a 40-4 vote and sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his signature. After 30 days without action from de Blasio, the bill became law. It will first go into effect in May of 2020, and it is the first law of its kind. Depending on the law’s success, we might see similar legislation enacted across the country.

Will All Workers Be Affected?

Even with this new law, not all workers will be entirely exempt from pre-employment drug testing. The law makes an exception for certain kinds of workers. Specifically, the law does not apply to any individuals applying to positions requiring the supervision or care of children, medical patients, and vulnerable persons. The law also excludes applicants for positions which “significantly impact the health or safety of employees or members of the public.” These exceptions most significantly apply to those that work in the healthcare industry. However, the exemption status of non-medical staff who work in healthcare facilities, such as administrative and maintenance employees, is still uncertain. The New York City Council is expected to release additional guidelines that will further clarify which job applicants are exempt from pre-employment drug testing.

Is Drug Testing Discriminatory?

The law states that pre-employment drug testing will now be considered an “unlawful discriminatory practice” in the job application process. This new category of discrimination raises important questions about what truly constitutes discrimination. We tend to think of discrimination in terms of unchanging factors that are integral to a person’s identity. For example, the Civil Rights Act prevents job discrimination on the basis of race, sex, nationality, religion, etc. This new law considers whether or not someone uses drugs as a new protected category. However, some argue that drug usage is a choice rather than an identity, so it should not be considered a protected status. Others argue that whether someone chooses to do drugs outside of work is their freedom, and employers should not discriminate against them because of this factor. Drug usage is not the only proposed new category for protected status from discrimination. Other recently proposed congressional legislation aims to make sexual orientation and gender identity as additional protected categories from job discrimination.

Seek Legal Assistance Today

If you have questions about NYC’s new drug testing law, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.