Legal Product Laws and How they Affect Your Organization

In November 16, 2017

In 1963, the Equal Pay Act prevented wage discrimination based upon sex across the United States. One year later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 expanded those protections — forbidding any employer from discriminating against workers based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Additional federal laws would eventually protect workers based upon pregnancy status, genetic information, bankruptcy, military service, disabilities, age, and citizen status, as well.

State protections oftentimes extend further. Depending on where you live, for example, discrimination based on the following factors may also be illegal: sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, medical condition, political affiliation, military discharge status, public assistance status, and the “use of legal products.”

The last item on the list above often catches the attention of employers — especially considering the fact that 8 states now allow citizens and visitors to consume cannabis recreationally. Another commonly smoked substance, tobacco, is also relevant to these laws, as some organizations prefer to hire non-smokers.

Does your state have legal product discrimination laws?
Currently, off-hours and off-property nicotine use is protected either directly or indirectly in 33 states. Meanwhile, six states have broader “legal product” laws which protect off-hours, off-site use of legal intoxicants such as marijuana. (Most notable among these are Colorado and Nevada, as both states have also legalized recreational cannabis.)

What are your options as an employer?
It’s a basic principle of safety, customer service, and sound business: drugs and work don’t mix. Thankfully, even in the states of Nevada and Colorado, they don’t have to. Even though discriminating against an employee for using cannabis at home during their free time is illegal in these states, you are still totally within your rights to forbid consumption/intoxication during working hours. And this underscores the importance of drug and background testing.

A similar principle can be applied to tobacco use as well — you can still forbid smoking during work hours and on your premises, thus protecting other employees, customers, and yourself from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

For more useful information on complicated HR legal issues, visit Precise Payroll online today!

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