Clearing the Haze: Understanding SB 700 and What Employers Need to Know About Cannabis and Workplace Discrimination

Posted by Catherine Chukwueke | Oct 25, 2023

On October 7, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom approved SB 700, a pivotal amendment to the existing Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"). SB 700 introduces protections for job applicants and employees against discrimination based on their past cannabis use, with some exceptions. SB 700 will go into effect on January 1, 2024.

Expanded Protections under SB 700

FEHA already provides protection against various forms of employment discrimination. SB 700 builds upon these protections by making it unlawful for employers to discriminate based on off-the-job and away-from-the-workplace cannabis use. Additionally, SB 700 prohibits discrimination in hiring, termination, or any employment terms based on an applicant's non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites, identified through scientifically valid pre-employment drug screening.

Limiting Information Requests

SB 700 takes a bold step by explicitly prohibiting employers from requesting information about a job applicant's prior cannabis use. However, it provides nuanced considerations regarding information from an individual's criminal history, subject to the law's provisions. Exceptions to SB 700 encompass situations where employers are allowed to consider or inquire about such information under specific provisions of FEHA or other state or federal laws.

Balancing Responsibilities: Employees and Employers

While ensuring protection against discrimination linked to cannabis use, SB 700 maintains a delicate balance by affirming employees' responsibility not to possess, be impaired by, or use cannabis on the job. This legislation solidifies employers' rights to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace.

Exceptions and Exclusions

Certain exceptions are outlined in the legislation to cater to specific industries, notably employees in the building and construction trades. Additionally, SB 700 does not apply to positions requiring federal government background investigation or security clearance.

Given the upcoming implementation of SB 700, employers are strongly encouraged to revisit and revise their employment practices accordingly. With the evolving landscape of cannabis legislation, aligning workplace policies with these changing norms is crucial. Employers should ensure that their hiring processes, discrimination policies, and information requests comply with the new amendments to FEHA. By proactively adapting to these legal changes, employers not only foster a more inclusive and fair work environment but also safeguard themselves from potential legal challenges. Staying informed and responsive to such legislative shifts is integral to maintaining harmonious employer-employee relationships in the ever-evolving employment landscape.

If you have any questions regarding your company's policies or California employment law, contact the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke and schedule a consultation.

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. 

About the Author

Catherine Chukwueke

Catherine (“Cathy”) Chukwueke is the Owner and Principal Attorney of the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke, a law firm focusing on labor and employment matters and workplace investigations. Ms. Chukwueke is passionate about helping people who have been mistreated in the workplace.

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