A Federal Appeals Court in San Francisco just ruled that it's OK for an employer to refuse to hire someone who has ever tested positive for marijuana or other drugs, even if the applicant has been clean and sober for years.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco stated, after a 2-1 decision, that the rule "imposes a harsh penalty on applicants who test positive," and could seem unreasonable because many drug and alcohol users do recover. But the Pacific Maritime Association's policy was adopted for safety purposes and not to single out former drug users, according to the ruling. The Pacific Maritime Association controls hiring in the West Coast longshore industry.
Apparently, there have been a large number of substance abuse-related safety incidents.
This issue has been brewing for several years. In 1997, a man by the name of Santiago Lopez was turned down for a longshore position in Long Beach because he failed a drug test. He then underwent treatment and applied again in 2004, but the association wouldn't consider him because he'd tested positive seven years earlier.
"This is a very draconian view that impacts potentially thousands of people," Lopez's attorney, Andrea Cook, told the San Francisco Chronicle. Cook also said that she knows of no other employer, including law enforcement and the armed services, that permanently bars applicants because of a single positive drug test.
At 36, Lopez has now graduated from college, is raising a family and has a job, but he makes less than he would have as a longshoreman. Cook had indicated her client might seek an appeal.
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