Illinois House Passes Bill Protecting Employees from Termination for Cannabis Use

The Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill that would prohibit employers from terminating or refusing to hire someone based on a positive drug test for THC.

Full story after the jump.

Illinois employers are skeptical about a bill passed by the state House of Representatives that would prohibit them from firing employees for failing drug tests for cannabis, the Chicago Tribune reports. The measure still requires Senate approval but Todd Maisch, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce – which agreed not to oppose the legislation – said “nobody should be happier about [the bill] than trial lawyers.

“This is going to lead to litigation,” he told the Tribune, “there’s no doubt about it.”

The measure underwent two amendments to get the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and Illinois Manufacturers’ Association to drop their opposition and take a neutral stance. However, Julie Schauer, board vice president of Parents Opposed to Pot, called the proposal “a breach of the legislators’ responsibility to public safety” and predicted that if the measure is enacted it would lead to more workplace accidents and higher workers’ compensation and insurance costs.

Under the legislation, employers would be prohibited from terminating or refusing to hire someone based on a positive test THC unless the worker shows signs of impairment or tests higher than the threshold for driving under the influence, which is 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood, or 10 nanograms per milliliter of saliva or urine. Employers would still be able to set zero-tolerance levels for workers in safety-sensitive positions such as law enforcement or firefighters and federal workers or contractors would not be covered under the regime as they are prohibited by federal law from using cannabis.

Other workers that would be prohibited from cannabis use would include those who carry a firearm; those who perform medical procedures or emergency services; those who work with hazardous materials or drugs; those who work with heavy machinery, aircraft, watercraft, or motorized vehicles; and those who perform critical services and work with critical infrastructure, the report says.

State Rep. Bob Morgan (D), the bill’s sponsor who is also an attorney who does cannabis consulting, said the reforms would allow people, especially medical cannabis users, to use a legal product on their own time “and not fear losing their job.”

The measure was approved 61-41 on March 3, mostly along party lines with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed. The measure is currently in the Senate Assignments Committee.

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