NYC Bans Pre-Employment Marijuana Drug Testing


On May 10, 2019, New York City amended its Human Rights Law to prohibit pre-employment drug testing for the presence of marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols. This ban is the first of its kind in the United States and becomes effective on May 10, 2020, one year after its enactment.

The new law prohibits employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies from requiring that an applicant “submit to testing for the presence of any tetrahydrocannabinols or marijuana in such prospective employee’s system as a condition of employment.” Any such drug testing will be an unlawful discriminatory practice under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). Employers that violate the law will thus be liable to the full array of damages available under the NYCHRL, including, lost wages, emotional distress damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fee.

The law contains exceptions for individuals applying for (1) jobs in law enforcement; (2) workers at public work sites; (3) jobs requiring a commercial driver’s license; (4) positions requiring compliance with Section 3321 of the NYC Building Code; (5) positions involving the supervision or care of children, medical patients, or vulnerable persons (as defined in Section 488(15) of the New York Social Services Law); or (6) any positions that could “significantly impact the health or safety of employees or members of the public” as determined by the NYC Commission on Human Rights or Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

The new law specifically applies only to “prospective” employees, so employers will be able to drug test current employees, subject to limitations in New York’s medical marijuana law and disability accommodation requirements.

If you have any questions about your business’s drug testing policy or obligations under the NYCHRL, please contact us at (201) 345-5412 / (646) 503-5358 or through our online calendar to schedule a complimentary consultation.