Washington Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Hiring Discrimination Against Cannabis Users

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Washington Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Hiring Discrimination Against Cannabis Users
March 15, 2023

The Washington State Senate has passed a bill to protect cannabis users from pre-employment job discrimination. However, the Washington House of Representatives must still review the bill, Senate Bill 5123, before the governor sees it. 

Should it pass, it will prohibit employers from refusing to hire someone due to the results of a pre-employment drug test for cannabis use. However, Senate Bill 5123 would only apply to cannabis use. For example, it would prevent employers from refusing applicants who tested positive for cannabis on a pre-employment drug test. Otherwise, employers can continue testing for other drugs in their hiring process.

The bill also only applies to the hiring process. Once hired, employers can conduct drug screenings as they choose. Furthermore, they may fire employees who test positive for cannabis to keep a drug-free workplace. An employer can also check for cannabis use if an employee is involved in a workplace accident. Finally, employers may request a drug test if they believe a worker used cannabis and worked while impaired.

Senate Bill 5123 would not apply to all jobs, offering exclusions for specific industries that require drug-free workplaces. For example, excluded positions include those in the aerospace or airline industries. The bill also excludes jobs that require a security clearance or a federal background investigation.

Recreational use of cannabis first became legal in 2021 when the ballot measure, Initiative 502, passed. Though it received substantial support, it did not protect marijuana users from pre-employment discrimination. Instead, it removed the power to prosecute cannabis users. As such, lawmakers in the State Senate hope this bill will further protect those who use marijuana.

Washington is not the first state to provide cannabis users pre-employment protections from drug testing. Starting this movement is Nevada, which passed a law in 2019 to protect employees who use marijuana. Since then, other states have passed similar laws to protect off-duty discrimination use and prevent discrimination.

If Senate Bill 5123 does become law, employers must update their hiring process to ensure they comply with the new law. Employment laws change frequently, and compliance with all laws regulating pre-employment background screening is essential. The best way to ensure your business complies with these laws is to partner with a trustworthy background check company.

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