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Nevada’s New Assembly Bill 132 Law Bans Employment Discrimination for Cannabis Consumers

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Workers in Nevada who also happen to be fans of marijuana are about to start getting a better shot at employment. On June 5, 2019, after a long day of motions (nearly 800 motions were tabled that day) at the Nevada Legislative Assembly, one of the many bills that got approved by Governor Steve Sisolak was Assembly Bill 132.

Assembly Bill 132, which has since received considerable press coverage, dictates that employers can no longer refuse to hire an individual just because they tested positive for cannabis.

What is Assembly Bill 132?

Assembly Bill 132 is one of over 700 motions that were tabled before the 80th legislative session of Nevada’s highest Assembly and one of about 500 that were later approved by the Governor. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Dina Neal, Assemblyman William McCurdy and Assemblyman Edgar Flores, the bill was first introduced to the Committee on Commerce and Labor on February 13th, 2019.

It then went through various amendments and readings and was later voted on by the Senate on May 24th, 2019 to a final tally of 21 Yeas, 8 Nays and 1 Excused, before being introduced to the Assembly on May 27th. On June 5th, the Governor finally signed it into law. Assembly Bill 132 becomes effective January 1st, 2020.

What does Assembly Bill 132 say?

Assembly Bill 132 renders it illegal in Nevada for an employer to refuse or fail to hire an individual or prospective employee in the event that the drug test done on the prospective employee returns positive results for the presence of cannabis in their system. The law covers all kinds of drug tests, whether done using urine, hair, saliva, or even blood.

Assembly Bill 132 also dictates that if an employer submits employees to drug screening tests within their first 30 days of employment, those employees will have the right to another drug test by the same employer to dispute the results of the first, at their own expense. Additionally, the bill dictates that the employer will give adequate consideration to the second drug test’s results and judge accordingly.

The Implications of Assembly Bill 132

This new bill is bound to become a major force of change for employment in Nevada. As the cannabis boom spreads across the United States, employers around the country including the state of Nevada have embraced drug tests as a quick way of weeding out drug users. They consider drug-users unfit to be prospective employees, during selection. Individuals that receive positive drug test results are most often turned down and refused employment, laid off, suspended, or fired.

For employers, this method has always been well received. But for employees and prospective employees, it has resulted in a massive loss of work hours, extended unemployment and sudden termination of work contracts.

In many cases, these drug tests have come back positive weeks and months after the employee last consumed any drug. But employer-issued drug tests and the consecutive results have always been considered final, so there hasn’t been room for employees and prospective employees to dispute them.

Until Assembly Bill 132 of course. Now, should the test come back positive, the employee will not have to request for permission first but will be entitled to receive another drug test to dispute the first drug test’s results, paid for from the employee’s pocket.

Plus, the employer will have committed a crime worthy of penalty if he or she refuses to acknowledge the results of the second test in favor of terminating employment. This is major progress for Nevada employees in the battle with employers for fairer employment practices.

Exempt Employers

As with any law, there are a few exemptions. Assembly Bill 132 exempts a few specific jobs from being affected, including firefighters, emergency medical technicians and drivers of motor vehicles that federal law requires must be operated by individuals that must have passed drug screening tests.

The bill also exempts employers at one point, allowing them to deny employment to a prospective employee with a positive drug test if the position they are applying for could affect the safety of others, by the employer’s judgment.

Similar Laws Have Already Been Passed

Nevada isn’t alone in enacting new laws that promise a wave of changes for drug users in the employment sector. The State of New York recently passed its own law barring employers from requiring every job applicant to do a cannabis drug test before being considered for employment.

The law exempts a few professions and their employers too, such as certain construction workers and drivers, the latter of which is required by Department of Transportation regulations to submit to regular drug screening tests.

The state of Nevada has also passed into legislation bills that support terminating smaller and older marijuana-based convictions, back and legalize working relationships between licensed cannabis businesses and financial service providers and accord Nevada’s medical cannabis access program wider reach.

With these new laws, the Governor is signaling a new, more positive attitude by the state toward the cannabis industry, mostly by making cannabis less criminal and more acceptable. If these laws achieve their desired effect, the cannabis community in Nevada will gain better representation and acceptance statewide.

But for every new Nevada or New York law fighting on the side of the cannabis industry, there is a California no-weed-in-the-office law. The state of California has in place a clear-worded law that gives employers a right to keep a drug-free workplace, and allows them to carry out action against employees and prospective employees whose drug tests come back positive.

Part of that action involves turning down application letters from guilty prospective employees and termination or suspension of guilty employees’ contracts with no room for dispute. Still, hope for wider acceptance of cannabis in the workplace remains.

Conclusion

While Assembly Bill 132 is only expected to go into full force by January 1st, 2020, it is already spreading hope among Nevada residents and cannabis users everywhere. It is only the first step in the long journey to making cannabis use more acceptable and mainstream, especially in the workplace. 

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