Labor & Employment
Summer 2022

District of Columbia’s Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022

On July 13, 2022, the District of Columbia’s mayor signed Bill B24-0109 into law. The new law is named the Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022. In short, this new law prohibits employers from firing, failing to hire, suspending, demoting, failing to promote, or penalizing an individual based on their use of cannabis, participation in a medical cannabis program, or an individual’s failure to pass an employer’s cannabis drug test subject to certain exceptions.

While the act provides strong protections for an individual’s legal cannabis usage, there are built-in protections for the employers as well. Employers will not be in violation of the act by taking actions related to the usage of cannabis if the employment position is designated as safety-sensitive; the employer’s actions are required by federal statute, regulations, or a federal contract or funding agreement; or if the employee used, consumed, possessed, stored, delivered, transferred, displayed, transported, sold, purchased, or grew cannabis at the employer’s place of business, while performing work for the employer, or during the employee’s hours of work.  Further, the act is not meant to be construed as requiring an employer to permit or accommodate cannabis usage during work hours or at the employer’s place of business.  Employers are also still permitted to adopt reasonable drug-free workplace policies, such as the use of cannabis drug testing following an accident, or for employees in safety-sensitive positions.

The act defines safety-sensitive to mean positions, designated by employers as such, in which it is reasonably foreseeable that if the employee performs the position’s duties or tasks under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the person will likely cause actual, immediate, and serious bodily injury or loss of life to self or others. Examples of these types of positions include security services; operation of motor vehicles, heavy machinery, and equipment; work on active construction sites, near power or gas utility lines; supervision of routine care for individuals unable to care for themselves who reside in an institution or other custodial settings; and positions involved with the administration of medicine or other medical treatment.

For those employers who are non-compliant, the act provides individuals with three methods of recourse: an individual can file a complaint with the Office of Human Rights, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office, or bring a private cause of action against the employer. An individual must either file their complaint or bring their cause of action within one year after the employer’s act of non-compliance. Penalties against employers found to be non-compliant include civil penalties, payment of the complainant’s lost wages, equitable relief as appropriate, and payment of attorney’s fees and costs.

The Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022 went into effect on July 13, 2022. You can read the complete Act here.

Written by associate Samantha Schilling.