Whether medical cannabis use results in job termination depends on state laws. A recent New Jersey appellate court decision stops employers from firing employees who use medical cannabis when not at work. The ruling will affect employers’ enforcement of zero tolerance drug policies regarding cannabis.
New Jersey is not the only state permitting medical cannabis use to fall under its employment disability-based discrimination laws. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island courts have made similar rulings. Currently, 42,000 people are registered medical cannabis users in the state, and Governor Phil Murphy has announced plans to greatly expand the number of conditions for which medical cannabis is prescribed.
The case concerned a worker at a funeral home using medical marijuana during off-hours to ease his cancer pain. While the worker did not inform the funeral home that he was prescribed medical cannabis, he claimed he never used cannabis at work and was never impaired on the job. When the worker sued for disability discrimination, the trial court found that because cannabis is still federally illegal, the employer had the right to fire him.
However, the appellate court decided New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws could require accommodation by employers for medical needs, although each case required separate consideration. The court did note that an employer can forbid the use of medical cannabis while on the job.
The bottom line for employers when it comes to employees and medical cannabis use is that a positive drug test for cannabis is no longer a basis for termination. Unlike alcohol, cannabis stays in the bloodstream for days or weeks after use. Now, an employer needs evidence that an employee is impaired due to cannabis consumption while on the job before firing the individual.
The employer has the right to know whether medical cannabis use may interfere with an employee’s job performance. Employers might engage with employees prescribed medical cannabis to reach some form of accommodation. That might include allowing cannabis consumption off the worksite when the employee is not working, as long as there is no impairment during working hours.
If you use medical marijuana to treat your health conditions and your employer is threatening your job, you need the services of the experienced Long Branch employment lawyers at Fox & Melofchik, L.L.C. For a free consultation, call us today at 732-493-9400 or fill out an online contact form.
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