Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak of Nevada signed a bill on Friday that prohibits employers from denying jobs to applicants because of their legal marijuana use. Under the measure, Assembly Bill 132 (AB 132), employers would be banned from discriminating against prospective employees based on a positive result for marijuana use in a pre-employment drug screening or an applicant’s admission of legal cannabis use.
The bill was introduced in the Nevada State Assembly in February and passed by the body on April 23 by a vote of 33 to 8. AB 132 was then taken up by the state Senate and passed by a margin of 12 to 8 on May 24.
Stigma Persists Despite Legalization
“There’s still a stigma around cannabis, even though it is legal for medical and recreational use,” Kiera Sears, a consultant with the Joey Gilbert Law Firm in Reno, told local media.
Nevada voters legalized the medicinal use of marijuana in 2000, followed by the passage of a ballot initiative legalizing recreational cannabis use by adults that was approved in 2016 and went into effect on January 1, 2017. Legal sales of recreational cannabis began in the state on July 1, 2017.
AB 132 does not prohibit employers from administering drug tests to applicants, but they are not permitted to deny employment based solely on a positive result for cannabis. Once the bill becomes effective next year, applicants who believe they were discriminated against by a potential employer based on legal cannabis use would have to turn to the courts for relief, according to Sears.
“I did a pre-employment screening test and I tested positive and I didn’t get the job,” she hypothesized. “Then it becomes a legal issue of finding out why did the employer not hire this person?”
Employers Should Set Clear Policies
Sears said that to avoid potential litigation under the measure, employers should proactively set clear policies regarding cannabis use by applicants, employees, and in the workplace.
“Really work on your employment manual and really have a clear understanding that you can get to your employees so they understand your boundaries,” she recommended.
Sears also had words of advice for job hunters in the state.
“Be respectful,” she said. “Nevada has given people the opportunity to participate in the consumption of marijuana and that’s a privilege. We’ve gone against the federal government and we should not take that for granted.”
AB 132 is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2020.