The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that employees can maintain action under the state Law Against Discrimination against employers if the employee suffers an adverse employment action for lawful medical cannabis use, according to a Mondaq report.
In the Wild v. Carriage Funeral Home case, the plaintiff used medical cannabis with an approved recommendation as part of his cancer treatment and was involved in a work-related car accident. After admitting to being a medical cannabis patient, his doctor did not perform a drug test because he did not perceive the plaintiff to be impaired at the time of the accident.
His employer, however, did require him to undergo a drug test, which he failed and was ultimately terminated.
A trial court ruled in favor of the employer and dismissed the lawsuit; however, the state Appellate Division reversed the decision of the lower court. The Appellate Court found the plaintiff met his burden under the discrimination law by alleging that the employer knew of his disability, need for treatment, and need to take the recommended medication.
The court’s decision indicates that an employee’s mere notification of lawful medical cannabis use to their employer may be sufficient to trigger the employer’s duty to engage in possible accommodations, such as not taking action based on a positive drug test, the report says. The court also noted that while the medical cannabis law doesn’t require employers to accommodate medical cannabis use in the workplace, it does require them to abide the anti-discrimination workplace law with regard to medical cannabis patients.
The court added two caveats to the ruling – that employees who operate heavy equipment may not be protected under the law because the medical cannabis law prohibits patients from operating vehicles or heavy machinery under the influence of cannabis; however, the law does not define “under the influence.”
Ultimately the ruling does not prevent employers from firing a patient who is under the influence in the workplace, it does allow registered medical cannabis patients who test positive for cannabis protection from adverse actions by their employer.