The city council in Washington, D.C. passed a bill on Tuesday that bans employers from firing workers who test positive for marijuana.
The new law, named the Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022, would also stop employers and private companies from firing or refusing to hire an employee because of their medical or recreational marijuana use.
According to the Washington Post, the bill makes exceptions, however, for individuals working in “safety-sensitive” occupations, such as police officers, security guards, construction workers, health care workers and those who operate heavy machinery. Employees working in the federal government, and employees who are caught using marijuana at work or while performing work-related duties, are also exempt from the law. The bill does, however, protect local district government workers.
At Tuesday’s legislative meeting, city council members stated that the law would protect some people, especially employees of color. A 2013 Yale study found that 63 percent of Black workers have jobs that require drug testing, compared with 46 percent of white workers.
The law has been sent to D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser for approval. If she passes the bill, employers will have 60 days to notify their current employees of their new rights, and whether they are classified as safety-sensitive workers. Employers will have to inform each new hire thereafter as well.
If a company 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, and must pay the employee’s lost wages and attorney’s fees,” NPR reported.
Recreational marijuana use has been legal in Washington, D.C. since 2014. Anyone who is older than 21 years old can possess up to two ounces of marijuana or give away up to one ounce to another person of age. However, it is still illegal to sell marijuana or use the substance on public property in D.C.