Court Upholds Unemployment Benefits for Fired Cannabis Patient

A Pennsylvania Appeals Court ruling has guaranteed a medical cannabis patient’s access to unemployment benefits after he was fired for failing a drug test.

Full story after the jump.

A Pennsylvania Appeals Court has confirmed an order allowing a medical cannabis patient access to unemployment benefits after he was fired for failing a drug test, according to a JD Supra report.

Following his termination as a customer service representative for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, the employee filed for unemployment benefits but was denied due to the failed drug test. The Authority said the employee was fired for violating its drug policy and that they were right to deny his unemployment claim because cannabis is illegal under federal law.

During the employee’s appeal of the decision, the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (UCBR) determined that the Authority’s policy allowed positive drug tests to be excused if the employee had a lawful prescription for the medication and if the employer did not intend for that policy to exclude cannabis than it should have said as much.

While medical cannabis recommendations are not, technically, prescriptions the employee held a valid, state-issued, medical cannabis identification card.

The Appeals Court affirmed that ruling, determining that unemployment compensation laws require only compliance with the employer’s drug policy – not federal law – and that the Authority’s drug policy was ambiguous when it came to medical cannabis.

The court notes that given its “disposition of the case based on the language of Employer’s Drug Policy, it does not reach the issue of whether the UCBR erred by requiring [the] Employer to satisfy an additional burden of proving that claimant knowingly or intentionally violated Employer’s Drug Policy.”

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