Legislation Would Protect Employee’s Off-Duty Marijuana Use

Legislative sessions are underway in a number of states and there are a number of issues cropping up that are important to both employers and their employees, temporary or otherwise.

A bill that immediately grabbed our attention in Colorado is House Bill 1089, aka the Employee Protection for Lawful Off-Duty Activities.

Will Temby
Will Temby

This bill would prohibit employers from firing an employee for an employee’s off-duty activities that are lawful under state law, even if those activities are unlawful under federal law.

While the language is broad, this bill is aimed specifically at off-duty marijuana use.

At companies across Colorado, testing positive for marijuana is still legal grounds for dismissal, even if your employer acknowledges that you weren’t high on the job.

Business groups have long advocated for an employer’s right and responsibility to maintain a safe, healthy and productive workplace. In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed that employers are within their rights to maintain drug-free workplaces.

House Bill 1089, however, would hurt an employer’s ability to comply with federal regulations governing their business and to ensure the safety of their employees and customers.

Colorado wouldn’t be the first state to protect marijuana use as legalization spreads. Nevada’s state legislature passed a law last year that bans pre-employment marijuana tests, as does New York City.

How the proposed legislation fares is hard to know, especially this early in the legislative session. But any bill that gets in the way of an employer’s right to provide a drug-free workplace is undoubtedly going to attract plenty of resistance.

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