Bill to restrict pre-employment drug testing

Council Member Jumaane Williams marches in the 2018 Cannabis Parade.
Office of Councilman Jumaane Williams

Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane D. Williams on Wednesday introduced legislation that would prohibit employers from testing prospective employees for marijuana usage before employment.

Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, said the bill, Intro 1445, would prohibit New York City employers from requiring a prospective employee to submit to testing for the presence of any tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, in such prospective employee’s system as a condition of employment.

Williams said exceptions are provided for safety and security sensitive jobs, and those tied to a US federal or state contract or grant.

The legislation was co-sponsored by the City Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo and Council Member Carlina Rivera.

“We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less; and, as we move toward legalization, it makes absolutely no sense that we’re keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use,” Williams said.

“I’ve long advocated for legalization and the expunging of records, and this measure is in line with those goals,” he added. “This legislation, like the Fair Chance Act before it, is good for both employers and prospective employees. It expands the pool of applicants by preventing people from being shut out.”

The introduction of the measure comes as more elected officials, and recently Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, have endorsed the legalization of marijuana, which is currently being considered in the New York State Legislature.

Williams said a large package of bills and resolutions were introduced on Wednesday in the City Council, related to marijuana and drug policy, driven by the Council’s Progressive Caucus.

In November 2018, Williams introduced a resolution calling on the state to expunge these records.

Last April, he also he introduced legislation to prevent New York City’s Department of Sanitation and the Taxi and Limousine Commission from using cannabis offenses as the sole reason for denial of license or dismissal from employment.

“Plain and simple, pre-employment drug testing, and sporadic drug testing in the work environment is a violation of personal privacy,” Cumbo said. “It’s not an employer’s business what you do in your spare time, if it doesn’t affect your work product or the safety and well-being of your clients, colleagues and stakeholders.

“While New York State engages in a transformative cannabis legalization expansion, we want to underscore the importance of protecting all people from unfair hiring and firing practices due to cannabis use,” she added.

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