It has been just over a year since the state of New York legalized the use of recreational cannabis. Since then, you may have run into concerns or questions about how legalization affects workers.
If you are an employee
If you work in New York and legally use cannabis, the law protects you from discrimination and other unlawful employment actions. Under the new laws, employees cannot receive unfair adverse treatment based on their lawful use of cannabis outside of the workplace.
The law also prohibits employers from drug testing employees unless they have permission to do so through specific labor laws, or if testing is a mandatory requirement for a particular occupation.
In other words, using cannabis is much like other recreational activities. Unless cannabis use creates a danger at work or adversely affects your ability to perform your job functions, employers should not make employment-related decisions based on your personal activities.
Keep in mind that laws protecting cannabis use in relation to employment do not cover every worker. For instance, they likely will not cover you if you are under 21, work outside of New York, or are categorized as something other than an employee.
If you are an employer
If you are an employer, you have rights and responsibilities regarding cannabis. Again, employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their cannabis use outside of the workplace and cannot require inappropriate drug tests.
However, there are ways to protect your business and manage your workforce without violating employee rights regarding their cannabis use.
Some of these options include:
- Clearly defining workplace policies and expectations regarding drug use in employment handbooks
- Familiarizing yourself with articulable symptoms of impairment and documenting when those symptoms are witnessed among employees at work
- Prohibiting cannabis use on the job, including during break and meal periods as well as on-call hours
- Restricting cannabis use in company vehicles
- Banning the possession of cannabis on company property
These actions are generally lawful and do not violate employee rights.
Changing laws, changing policies
Whether you are an employee or employer, changes in the law can mean changes in workplace policies and acceptable actions. Paying attention to these changes can be crucial for employees and employers across New York.