In early April, by an overwhelming 40-4 vote, the New York City Council passed a bill that will prevent most employers, including co-op and condo boards, from forcing job applicants to undergo drug tests for marijuana use. No such law is on the books in any other American city – even in states that have legalized recreational marijuana use.
“I’m proud that the city has taken action where the federal and the state governments have stalled,” Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate and the bill’s sponsor, told The New York Times. In a statement, he added, “We need to be creating more access points for employment, not [fewer]. It makes absolutely no sense that we’re keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use.”
But pot tests are still permitted under some circumstances. “One has to be careful and look at which employees are affected, because there are certain carve-outs,” advises Michael Manzi, a partner at the law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell. If a worker appears to be under the influence of marijuana while on the job, employers would still be permitted to demand a drug test.
Certain industries are exempted from the test ban when hiring, including construction, law enforcement, and jobs that involve supervising medical patients or children. And the bill would not end the drug-test requirements imposed by the federal government on transportation workers, including truck drivers and pilots. “Some co-ops and condos have large staffs,” Manzi says, “and if the board thinks an employee is using drugs on the job, it can still conduct a drug test. Depending on how it affects the employee’s performance, it could be grounds for dismissal. You don’t want a stoned doorman.”
Howard Rothschild, president of the Realty Advisory Board, believes drug testing is more likely to have an impact in the workplace than in the job interview process. He says, “The two questions boards need to ask are: Does the employee appear to be under the influence while on the job? Is it affecting job performance? If so, they shouldn’t be working at that moment.”
New York State legalized medical marijuana in 2014, and Governor Andrew Cuomo is now pushing to legalize recreational use of the drug.