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Will a Tighter Labor Market Mean Fewer Drug Tests?

Topics: Current Events
A tighter labor market means employers are forced to think outside of the box in order to attract and retain top talent. Could this shrinking talent pool lead employers to require fewer drug tests?
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Unemployment is currently holding steady at a low 4.1 percent. The labor market is pretty tight right now, and that’s a great thing for workers. Still, insecurity apparently persists because workers aren’t job hopping the way you might expect them to in this kind of labor market. Things don’t always go the way you’d expect when it comes to jobs. For example, you might think that employers would start to do away with drug testing in a climate like this, especially given how much legal cannabis has expanded in recent years. But does a tighter market mean fewer drug tests?

Drug tests restrict hiring

The job pool is restricted by mandatory drug testing. Since cannabis became legal in nine states plus Washington D.C., some employers have been questioning whether or not this restriction is really in their best interest.

The Federal Reserve cited an inability by applicants to pass required drug tests as one of the reasons for difficulties in hiring, according to Bloomberg. They also mentioned that Quest Diagnostics data shows that failed drug tests reached an all-time high in 2017. Quest also found that marijuana use is expanding everywhere, not just in states were it’s been legalized for recreational use.

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What does this mean for employers? Well, between the tight labor market and the changing landscape around marijuana use, some are starting to reconsider their policies around drug testing.

“The benefits of at least reconsidering the drug policy on behalf of an employer would be pretty high,” Jeremy Kidd, a professor at Mercer Law School, told Bloomberg. “A blanket prohibition can’t possibly be the most economically efficient policy.”

Employers can test for marijuana, even if it is legal

Although many states have passed laws that legalize marijuana for medical, or even recreational, use, federal law still prohibits it’s sale, use, or possession. However, no matter where legality issues stand in your state, employers can still screen job applicants for marijuana use, even when it’s legal.

Employers can also refuse to hire because you failed to pass a drug test. This is true even if you have a legal prescription for the substance in question, like marijuana for example.

“People think that they have all of these job protections, but they really don’t,” Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, said in an interview with Mercury News. “Employment in the United States is at will. That means employers can hire whoever they want, under any conditions they want, with a few exceptions.” Those exceptions relate to things like gender, race, age, and religion. “Marijuana is not one of those protected classes,” said Winkler.

Some employers are reducing drug testing

Some employers are starting to pull back on drug-test requirements in response to current circumstances. AutoNation Inc., the largest auto dealer in the U.S. has announced that it will no longer refuse job applicants who’ve tested positive for Marijuana, for example.

Pri Murphy, who is the president-elect of Personnel Association of Sonoma Country told North Bay Business Journal that one the HR groups’ top concerns is marijuana screening.

“We saw it start with employers in Colorado where for years I’ve had employers there say to me, ‘Don’t include it on our panel, we don’t want to know,’” Murphy said.

Time will tell if the current labor market will ultimately have an effect on mandatory drug testing around the country. Employers might also make adjustments in response to the changing culture and climate around marijuana legalization and use as time goes on. It could be advantageous for employers to consider adjusting their policies around drug testing, particularly for cannabis use.

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