We Protect Workers

California’s new protected class: Cannabis users

California has some of the most robust employment laws in the nation. They often give workers more protection than federal laws – especially when it comes to issues of discrimination.

Well, California has once again shown that it’s progressive about worker rights. As of January 1, 2024, amendments to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) now add cannabis users to its list of classes that are legally protected against employment discrimination.

What’s changed?

AB 2188 specifically created a new protected class of workers under FEHA. The new class involves people who use cannabis “off the job and away from the workplace” even if they have a positive drug test. (A few exceptions do apply, such as those involving construction work and jobs that require federal clearance.)

In addition, AB 2188 prohibits employers from using drug tests in their decisions to hire, fire or otherwise discipline a worker. If employers want to test an employee to see if they’re impaired on the job, they have to use a procedure that screens for active impairment and THC, rather than cannabis metabolites that can stay in a user’s system for weeks.

Finally, SB 700 amends FEHA to make it illegal for employers to ask job applicants about their history of cannabis use before hiring them. 

The new law makes it possible for workers who have experienced discrimination related to their cannabis use to sue their employers. While every employer in this state should already be aware of the new laws, there are always a few who either don’t get the message or don’t think it applies to them. If you’ve experienced this kind of discrimination, it’s in your best interests to learn more.