Lawmakers Unanimously Reject Bill Preventing Employers from Implementing Zero-Tolerance Policies

The House Committee on Business Affairs and Labor yesterday voted 10-0 against House Bill 1089, which would have prohibited employers from terminating employees for marijuana use off-duty.

The bill would have created logistical and administrative problems for employers, contradicted agreements many businesses have with the federal government, and presented many legal issues at the state level. It also would have overturned a ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court that preserved the ability of employers to terminate employees for failing a drug test.

Loren Furman, Senior Vice President of State and Federal Relations for the Colorado Chamber, testified against the bill in committee and emphasized that the bill would have created safety hazards for many employees that operate high-risk equipment. Further, she said that it’s important for businesses to maintain the ability to implement zero-tolerance drug policies in the workplace – a sentiment that was preserved by the task force created by former Governor Hickenlooper that advised the state on how to implement Amendment 64 in 2012, which legalized marijuana in Colorado.

Other opponents to the bill testified about their concerns with the limitations of drug tests for marijuana. Unlike with alcohol, there aren’t currently reliable tests that can determine if someone is impaired by marijuana in the moment. That makes it difficult for employers to determine if drugs were consumed on or off duty and could lead to costly litigation.

While business community understands the intent of the bill, HB 1089 was too broad and would have led to costly litigation for employers and the state. Furman recommended that any future consideration of the issue should undergo the same exhaustive process that was conducted by the Amendment 64 Task Force.