Pharmacies may ask about past drug convictions, despite California law

California has some very strict employment application rules designed to help potential employees with past drug-related criminal charges get jobs.

The California Labor Code prohibits potential employers from asking about marijuana possession convictions more than two years old. It requires employers to let applicants know they don’t have to reveal that information when asked about past convictions in general.

But sometimes, federal law overrides state law—and that’s the case for employers that are hiring potential employees to work in pharmacies. The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA) specifically states that such employers can ask about past drug convictions.

Recent case:
Adam Rankin applied to work for Longs Drug Stores and had to fill out an application that asked whether he had been convicted of a crime involving the possession or use of illegal drugs in the past seven years.

Rankin sued, alleging that the question was illegal in California since the Labor Code prohibits employers from asking about some marijuana convictions.

Longs argued that the CMEA expressly authorizes drug stores to ask about drug convictions “notwithstanding state law.” The court agreed and dismissed the case. (Rankin v. Longs Drug Stores California Inc., No. D052124, Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate Division, 2009)

Final note:
Remember, this rule applies only to drugstores covered by the CMEA. Other employers have to follow the rules set out by the California Labor Code.