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DC Stops Companies From Firing Employees For Marijuana

Employers can’t fire or refuse to hire workers because of pot use or failed tests. Being stoned at work isn’t protected


The DC council unanimously passed a bill Tuesday stopping companies from firing employees who fail marijuana drug tests. It also ban semployers from firing or refusing to hire an employee because of their recreational or medical marijuana use. 

The bill is the Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022, reports NPR.

There are a few exceptions, though. Employers won’t violate the law if they act under federal guidelines. They also can fire employees who consumed marijuana at work or while performing work-related duties.

Reflecting Reality

The bill was first introduced by Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8) in Feb. 2021, reports DCist. It reflects the reality that in many jurisdictions Cannabis is already legal for adult and/or medical use.

But employment laws and practices requiring drug testing often continue to reflect the past rather than the present.

Last fall, New Jersey adopted similar protections for workers. Nevada implemented its own version in 2020. New York State went one step further last year, banning all pre-employment marijuana testing.

Exceptions For ”Safety-Sensitive Jobs”

The new law makes exceptions, however, for workers in “safety-sensitive jobs,” reports The Washington Post.

These include operators of heavy machinery, construction workers, police and security guards who carry weapons and medical professionals.

While the District already created protections for city employees who use Cannabis, its council cannot bar the federal government from disciplining federal employees for marijuana use.

Report: Black Workers More Likely To Be Tested

The council referenced a report from the American Addiction Centers that said government jobs were the most likely to test employees for marijuana use. Council members said this showed that the law would not have a significant effect on the companies it targets, reports The Hill.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council members pointed to a 2013 Yale study that demonstrated that 63 percent of Black workers were in jobs that enforced drug testing, as opposed to 46 percent of white workers.

This shows how the measure would positively impact people of color, according to the council.

Employers Have 60 Days To Notify Employees

If Mayor Muriel Bowser signs the bill as expected, employers will have 60 days to notify their employees of their new rights under the law. Thereafter, employers must provide that same notice annually and for each new hire.

If an employer violates the law, an employee has up to a year from the date of noncompliance to file a complaint with D.C.’s Office of Human Rights. Employers could face fines of up to $5,000. They must also pay the employee’s lost wages and attorney’s fees.

DC adults over 21 can possess up to two ounces of marijuana, give away up to one ounce to another person of age. They can also grow up to six Cannabis plants and possess smoking paraphernalia, such as bongs and rolling papers.  It is still illegal to sell marijuana, use weed on public property and operate a vehicle or boat under the influence of Cannabis.

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