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Washington State Law Alerts

As we step into the new year, it's essential to remember that Washington state has already experienced significant legal changes in 2023. But the transformations are far from over! On January 1, 2024, Washington will see another wave of crucial law updates, further shaping the state's legal landscape.

Hiring Decisions Cannot Be Based

on Off-Duty Cannabis Use:

Employers cannot discriminate against an applicant during the initial stage of hiring based on their effective January 1, 2024:

  • Cannabis use off the job and away from the workplace or

  • Test Results from employer-mandated drug screening tests.

Employers may:

  • Require an applicant be tested for a spectrum of controlled substances, which may include cannabis, as long as the employer does not receive the cannabis results;

  • Base initial hiring decisions on drug tests that don't screen for non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites:

  • And require a drug and alcohol-free workplace.

This law does not apply to testing for controlled substances other than during the pre-employment stage. This law does not apply to:

  • Post-accident testing;

  • Testing when the employer is suspicious that an individual is impaired or under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, medications, or other substances; or

  • Safety-sensitive positions where impairment while working creates a substantial risk of death.

Access to PFML Information

Employers can access certain Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) information from the Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) effective January 1, 2024.

  • Type of leave being taken

  • The requested duration of leave, including the approved dates of leave;

  • Whether the employee was approved for benefits and was paid benefits for any given week.

The employer can only use the information to administer internal employer leave for benefit practices, and employer-designated representatives and employees can access.

Vehicle Searches Law Reminder

As of July 23, 2023, employers in Washington are prohibited from searching employees' privately owned vehicles (even when on or near the employer's premises) unless one of the eight exceptions in the law applies. The exemptions are found below:

  • The employer owns or leases the vehicle.

  • It's a lawful search by a law enforcement officer.

  • The employee uses the vehicle for work-related activities, and the employer needs to inspect it to ensure that it's suitable for those activities. (This looks like an easy excuse for inspection in many cases, but employers should only use this—or any reason—in good faith.)

  • A reasonable person would believe that accessing the vehicle is necessary to prevent an immediate threat to human health, life, or safety.

  • An employee consents to the search based on probable cause that they unlawfully possess the employer's property or a controlled substance in violation of federal law and the employer's written policy on drug use. This type of search can only be done by the business owner, owner's agent, or a licensed private security guard. The employer cannot make consent to the search as a condition of employment.

  • It's a security inspection of vehicles on a state or federal military installation or facility.

  • The vehicle is on the premises of a state correctional institution.

  • The vehicle is in a specific employer area subject to search under state or federal law.

Military Spouse Contract Relief:

Effective July 23, 2023

  • Spouses of an active-duty military member may terminate an employment contract (entered into after July 2023) without penalty.

  • The spouse must provide the employer with written notice and proof of their spouse's official orders.

  • This also creates procedures for military spouses to receive expedited professional licenses if certain conditions are met.

Washington's legal landscape is evolving in 2024. Notable changes include protection against discrimination for off-duty cannabis use during hiring, increased access to PFML information, and stricter regulations on vehicle searches. Additionally, military spouses gain contract relief and expedited professional licensing. These updates underscore Washington's commitment to fostering fairness and transparency within the state's legal framework.

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