Coyle Browne Law


Can My Employer Fire Me for Using Cannabis Off-the-Clock

Given the recent national movement of legalizing marijuana use – recreational and medicinally – navigating the intersection of employment laws and cannabis use can be complex. Cannabis use was legalized in California back in 2016 through a public vote. In response to this shift, new regulations are also being implemented to ensure workplace practices evolve with these changes. 

In California, as of January 1, 2024, a new bill will prohibit employers from penalizing or discriminating against existing employees or job applicants who use cannabis when they’re off-duty.

This bill, on and after January 1, 2024, would also make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person, if the discrimination is based upon the person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace…”

However, this doesn’t mean employees have total freedom concerning marijuana use and possession. The new legislation expressly prohibits employees from using, possessing, or being impaired by cannabis during work hours or on workplace premises.

More Information On The New Bill – AB 2188

California employers who have thus far relied on traditional drug testing for employment decisions have until January 2024 to revise their policies. Older methods that detect non-psychoactive metabolites of cannabis could no longer be valid grounds for hiring, firing, or disciplinary actions.

For employees concerned about safety and proper functioning in the workplace, more advanced cannabis testing methods are now available. Tests such as oral swabs offer a much more accurate measure of recent use compared to traditional urine or blood tests.

There Are Some Exceptions To The Bill

While this new law is designed to protect the rights of off-duty cannabis users, it does come with certain exceptions. For instance, specific industries such as building and construction can still enforce stricter rules on cannabis use. Additionally, roles needing a federal background clearance may be exempt from these regulations.

Employers May Still Use Drug Tests

Despite the new law, employers do still hold the right to require drug screening as part of their employment conditions. However, these tests must now focus only on detecting psychoactive compounds indicative of recent use rather than non psychoactive cannabis metabolites.

After using cannabis, its psychoactive compound — known as THC — transforms into a non psychoactive metabolite in your body. While this transformation product can be detected for weeks following consumption, it does not indicate present impairment or recent usage.

Employers Can Fire Employees For Being Impaired

Even with the new legal protections, it’s important to understand that employers maintain the right to ensure a safe and drug-free workplace. This includes taking action against employees who possess, use, or are impaired by cannabis during work hours.

Violations Are Considered Employment Discrimination

If an employer violates the new cannabis law by penalizing or discriminating against you due to off-duty cannabis use, it’s considered employment discrimination. In such cases, reaching out to an experienced employment lawyer becomes essential.

A lawyer can provide skilled guidance for your situation and help you file an appropriate claim. They will guide you through each step to get the justice you deserve, which could include obtaining compensation for your losses or getting your job back if you were fired, among other things.

If you need help with a claim, contact our employment law attorneys in San Diego today to schedule a free consultation.

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