Marijuana and Employment Drug Testing: What’s an Employer to Do?

It’s enough to make your head spin. Marijuana is legal for medical and/or adult recreational use in a growing number of U.S. states. However, testing positive during a drug test can be an issue for job applicants, employees, and employers alike. For employers and HR professionals, we assume trying to keep up with the velocity of new legalization has left you wondering just how these new laws are going to impact your drug testing policies.

From here on out, successfully navigating legalized marijuana legislation is going to be a challenge for organizations. Published statistics all point to increased marijuana use over the next five years (fueled in part by the COVID-19 pandemic), and U.S. legal marijuana market revenues are projected to reach $42 billion by 2025.

Marijuana and Federal Law

At the federal level, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances are considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use, making distribution of marijuana a federal offense. And in spite of ongoing legalization at the state level, this federal classification has not yet changed. As such, when it comes to drug testing, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing a program.

Because cannabis use remains illegal under federal law, employers within federal government regulated industries must maintain employment policies requiring pre-employment and random drug testing. While non-federally regulated employers are not required to include drug testing, keep in mind that there are still states and local governments that still enforce marijuana laws, and may require drug screening for certain positions.

Marijuana and State Law (Currently)

Legal use of marijuana (medical and recreational) varies from state to state. In 36 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is legal for those dealing with epilepsy or other particular illnesses to legally use marijuana for medical reasons.

In 15 states—Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington—the District of Columbia, and Guam, adults can legally use recreational marijuana.

Evolving Legislation

Let’s take a quick look at New York City, for example. Effective May 10, 2020, New York City enacted a law that considers testing of Marijuana for job applicants a discriminatory practice equivalent to denying employment to a job applicant based on race or gender. This law applies to all job applicants in New York City with the following exceptions:

  • Law enforcement positions
  • Construction workers on public projects
  • Jobs requiring a commercial license
  • Position involving the care of vulnerable persons
  • Positions that impact health or safety of the public

So, where to from here?

Regardless of state or local legislation, you as an employer have the legal right to promote and maintain an alcohol- and drug-free workplace. Likewise, you have the right to test employees (random) and job applicants (pre-employment screening) provided you clearly inform them of your organization’s substance abuse testing policies.

That said, drug screening for marijuana remains quite the debated topic. Especially in how it differs from alcohol, as alcohol does not linger in the bloodstream as cannabis does. A positive test does not mean someone is impaired at that moment. In fact, it’s widely proven that someone can fail a marijuana test days after using marijuana.

Be extremely careful when using marijuana testing results to make employment decisions. For example, if you decide to fire someone holding a medical marijuana card because of a positive drug test, it could potentially be litigated as workplace discrimination. In states like Nevada and New York, those using marijuana for a medical purpose, and holding a legal medical marijuana card, are considered legally disabled and have the same rights as others covered by disability laws which require employers to “reasonably accommodate” medical needs of an employee.

As a final thought, work closely with your legal counsel to:

  • Create standardized policies that effectively dictate all substance abuse and marijuana testing
  • Identify each job and jurisdiction to ensure compliance for each applicant/employee being tested
  • And, work closely with a resource you trust—like A-Check—to regularly confirm which states have legalized marijuana laws and what might be pending

While A-Check does not provide legal advice or counsel, we truly appreciate every opportunity to assist our clients, and welcome questions about your organization’s screening program.

We’re here to help.

A Focus on Return to Office: A-Check Global COVID-19 Testing Options for Your Workforce

FeaturedA Focus on Return to Office: A-Check Global COVID-19 Testing Options for Your Workforce

Although Coronavirus (COVID-19) has dramatically impacted the business landscape worldwide, it is also encouraging to now see employers focused on safely and gradually welcoming their workforces back to the office.

While granted, it’s not quite yet a universal movement, we do speak every day with clients who are looking for resources to help them transition employees back to their physical workplaces, This not only means revising guidelines to help maintain safe, healthy offices, but perhaps also implementing COVID-19 testing as a critical element of return to office efforts.

Depending on your company’s return to office policies, requiring employees to test negative for COVID-19 prior to an office return may be a viable complement to office cleaning and sanitation practices.

We want to quickly let you know that A-Check is here to help by providing COVID-19 testing and surveillance solutions through A-Check’s medical partner networks.

COVID-19 Rapid Infection At-Home Collection

Through A-Check’s partnership with Quest Diagnostics, we offer an at-home swab collection option to help diagnose whether your employees currently have COVID-19.

This anterior nares (nasal) swab collection kit, which is authorized by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), allows your employees to self-collect a sample to then be tested at a Quest laboratory. This test is used to screen for COVID-19.

Your employees have a convenient option to collect an upper respiratory nasal sample at home using the collection kit sent directly via express delivery at no additional charge to them. Detailed instructions on how to collect a sample are included in the collection kit. Also included in this at-home kit are a prepaid overnight shipping label and envelope that your employees can use to securely ship the sample to a Quest laboratory for COVID-19 testing.

Your employees are alerted when test results are ready (typically within 24-48 hours) and have secure access to the patient-friendly report. Additionally, your administrators can securely review and verify employee participation, status, and results online.

Additional COVID-19 Screening and Testing Services

Through our partnership with Concentra, we also offer initial screening using a COVID-19 Assessment. A clinician reviews your employee’s responses to determine if the employee may go to the office or if testing for active COVID-19 infection, testing for COVID-19 antibodies, or an in-person clinical examination is recommended.

  • COVID-19 Antibody Test – Initial: includes comprehensive screening and tests employees for possible COVID-19 immunity
  • COVID-19 RNA Test – Initial: includes comprehensive screening and tests employees for active COVID-19 infection
  • COVID-19 RNA Test – Surveillance: includes ongoing screening and testing of employees for active COVID-19 infection

Your employee’s COVID-19 status will be assessed by experienced clinicians who apply their medical knowledge and experience to evaluate the risk of each individual employee and the risk to the workforce.

You have the added assurance that services will be delivered consistently from more than 520 Concentra medical centers nationwide. We are more than happy to help you identify locations closest to your employees.

Who Should Get Tested?

While effective testing is essential in helping slow COVID-19 spread by identifying and isolating those with active infections, it’s also critical to make sure tests are distributed and implemented efficiently. That is, not everyone needs or should be getting tested. COVID-19 testing may be an option for those who:

  • Are required to perform COVID-19 testing to meet school, workforce, or travel requirements.
  • Are identified by an employer, public health department, contact investigator, or healthcare provider as someone who should get tested.
  • Have been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Live or work in a place where people reside, meet, or gather in close proximity.
  • Currently have symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, and/or loss of taste or smell (typical symptoms).
  • Are trying to determine if a prior infection with COVID-19 has resolved.

We are committed to the health and safety of our valued clients.

For more information, pricing, and to place an immediate order:
Contact Us


Celebrating 50 Years of the FCRA

Perhaps it went a little unnoticed by many, but let’s take just a moment now to acknowledge that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)—the nation’s first consumer financial privacy statute—recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The FCRA was designed to regulate the practices of consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) that collect and process information into reports used by businesses to make informed financial or employment decisions about consumers. Since 1970, the law has been an immense benefit to consumers, and will continue to ensure covered entities honor their legal obligations. Likewise, it will also require ongoing review to address the evolving economic landscape.

There have been many additional developments to the FCRA over the years, but three important features are as applicable today as they were decades ago during its introduction:

  • The law was constructed to regulate the efficiency of the nation’s consumer credit reporting organizations, drastically reducing the amount of time it took credit applications to be reviewed and processed.
  • The FCRA included legislation specifically designed to improve accuracy and integrity of information presented in consumer reports.
  • And third, it set important—and evolving—provisions to minimize risk of misuse by specifically limiting private consumer information access to only those with a legitimate, permissible purpose to access it.

A Friendly Reminder about FCRA Requirements

As you’re well aware, when an employer uses a third party (like A-Check) to conduct background checks, there are FCRA compliance requirements that must be followed. Because we’re committed to compliant business practice, we keep a close eye on our own efforts while processing your requests—and are equally committed to our clients’ compliance throughout their employment programs. For your convenience, here’s a very quick checklist of key requirements to keep handy:

  • Ensure there is a permissible purpose for performing a background check on an applicant/employee, based on their role and responsibilities.
  • Provide clear written notice in a stand-alone document to the applicant/employee that a background check will be conducted, and the resulting information will be used to make an employment decision.
  • Obtain the applicant/employee’s written consent to perform a background check and/or investigative report.
  • If the background check information results in an adverse action decision, a notice of pre-adverse action, along with a copy of the background check results and a copy of the Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, must be presented to the individual.
  • Allow the individual at least five business days to dispute the information in the background check.
  • Upon a final decision, and if adverse action is taken, provide the individual with a final notice of adverse action.

We’re focused on helping you remain compliant, and we always welcome your questions.


A Quick Look at Pre-Employment Credit Screening (From the Applicant Point of View)

If your organization runs pre-employment credit checks as part of your overall screening program, let’s ask you to put on your “applicant hat” for this blog entry. We’ll take a minute to look at credit checks from the applicant angle. And more importantly, to see what they face when applying for positions while also battling—or recovering from—lackluster credit histories.

So, just how many companies run pre-employment credit checks?

You might be surprised to know that a good percentage of companies make it common practice to run credit checks, especially for job positions handling money and/or sensitive, personal information. In fact, many run credit checks as a predictor that if an applicant successfully manages their own money, it’s a sign that he or she will make good, ethical decisions in the workplace.

A 2018 HR.com survey of HR professionals reported that just over 30% of companies performed credit checks on at least some of their applicants, if not all. Of course, if you’re not already running credit checks, we always recommend you check with your legal resource to confirm any limitations in your area for doing so.

Let applicants know what information is available during a credit check.

Your applicant just dazzled you with an impressive interview. You think it could potentially be a great match, and hopefully for many years to come. You may even be considering a conditional job offer. Now, it’s time to share that you run a pre-employment credit check as part of your company’s overall background screening—and here come the questions. No worries, this is what you do best. Take a moment to let them know what is, and isn’t, part of the credit check:

  • First, and probably most important to your applicant: the credit check doesn’t include a credit score. The credit score isn’t provided as part of a pre-employment credit check.
  • The report will show open accounts (without actual account numbers), payment history, outstanding balances, and open credit amounts. You’ll also have access to information about accounts in collections, negative payment history, and credit to balance limits ratio—unfortunately known as red flag items that illustrate credit issues.
  • The credit check is known as a soft hit, which will have no impact on the applicant’s credit score. Hard hits, like inquiries run for purposes of a loan offer or credit extension, can potentially impact a credit score.

Now, pretend you’re the applicant. How’s YOUR Credit?

Applicants may have asked you how they can improve their credit score. As an HR professional, it certainly helps to have a few key pieces of advice on hand. Or, perhaps this has you now thinking about your own credit history. Because who knows, perhaps someday you might be an applicant about to land your next dream job!

  • Top Tip: Regularly review your credit report for inaccurate information. You may already know, but it bears repeating that you can obtain a free credit report from all three credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com. You’re entitled to one free report per year from each bureau (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). If you spread that out across the year, it would mean you could go to one of the three bureaus every four months for your report.  
  • If you find inaccurate information, it is critical to immediately dispute it with the credit bureaus. Keep in mind that applicants finding inaccurate information may also reach out before a credit check to let you know they are currently disputing information. And, while it may be a little “too much information,” know that applicants may let you know their credit troubles are the result of a particular hardship—like a divorce, family death, or other life event.

The bottom line, pre-employment credit checks can be a valuable tool to understand your applicants’ approach to money management, as well as their potential to make appropriate decisions in their roles within your organization. As an HR professional, it’s also a great opportunity to help ensure you’re making informed employment decisions for the safety and well-being of your organization.


Keeping a Close Eye on Compliance:

FCRA Disclosure and Authorization Forms

No doubt, you already know the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has strict regulations in place to govern your pre-employment background screening process—and that failure to meet these regulations when screening your candidates can quickly get you into some pretty expensive legal trouble. It’s no secret that class action attorneys, year after year, continue to pursue employers and Consumer Reporting Agencies that are not in strict compliance with FCRA requirements.

Before we get too much further, let’s take a quick look at why these regulations are in place to begin with.

The FCRA was enacted to help ensure consumer protection

Short and simple. It’s about the privacy of consumer information—knowing what information is collected, and how that information can be used by lenders, credit issuers, and yes, even employers. During background screening, this protection also extends to information like criminal/arrest records.

In short, if you’re a U.S.-based business, of any size, public or private, your pre-employment background screening program is subject to FCRA regulation compliance.

Two important requirements: FCRA Disclosure and Authorization

Employers must begin all candidate background screening with two critical steps:

  • Disclosure: You must properly inform candidates that you will be performing a background screen
  • Authorization: And, you much obtain the candidate’s permission for this background screen

Let’s take a closer look at what is required for both.

Disclosure: Clearly notifying candidates that you intend to perform background screening as part of a wholly informed hiring decision. This disclosure must be clear (direct language, easy to understand), conspicuous (prominent, not deeply embedded in other forms or fine print), and presented as a stand-alone document.

Authorization: Also as a self-contained document, a clear candidate acknowledgement that background screening will be conducted as a pre-employment requirement. This can be presented jointly with the Disclosure, but must be on two separate and printable pages. As part of the authorization, the client will also acknowledge that the company is an equal-opportunity employer and follows all fair hiring practices.

That said, what can go wrong? Well . . . without close attention, a lot!

At most risk, improperly worded presented background check disclosure and authorization forms that do not follow FCRA requirements to the letter are magnets for class action litigation. Like we mentioned above, the FCRA requires clear, conspicuous disclosure as well as candidate written authorization prior to performing a background screen employment. Furthermore—and this is detail attorneys are embracing—FCRA requires the disclosure and authorization forms exist as stand-alone documents. (FCRA section 604(b)(2)).

It is the End User’s responsibility to manage the forms they provide to candidates. Disclosure and authorization forms can typically be signed physically or electronically. However, your company or organization should always consult with your legal team to confirm you are utilizing the appropriate forms, as FCRA regulations evolves over time, as does state-by-state legislation.

A-Check Global has consistently communicated the importance of disclosure and authorization form compliance to our clients. While U.S. employers are ultimately responsible for ensuring their hiring practices comply with federal and state requirements, we’re here to help.

Ask us about our FCRA Form Tool Kit

We offer a convenient Authorization for Background Investigation Form Kit which helps make it easier to comply with FCRA and applicable state-by-state requirements. Our document includes all the components necessary to customize your Forms.

For more information and access to this Tool Kit, please contact us at clientsupport@acheckglobal.com or 1-877-345-2021.