Medical marijuana and the workplace -- another lawsuit filed

As of this week, we have a new challenge to an employer based on medical marijuana – this time, in Rhode Island.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit alleging that Darlington Fabrics Corporation discriminated against a candidate for a paid intern position because the candidate, Christine Callaghan, disclosed that she used medical marijuana for her migraine headaches.

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The suit alleges that Ms. Callaghan had all but a formal offer when she disclosed her marijuana use, and that she promised not to use marijuana at work and not to come to work under the influence. She contends that, after consulting with legal counsel, Darlington told her that she would not get the position because of her current use of marijuana.

Ms. Callaghan is not alleging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act but the Rhode Island Hawkins and Slater Medical Marijuana Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on the individual’s status as holder of a medical marijuana card. States with similar protections include Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, and New York.

Late last month, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the use of medical marijuana did not preclude ex-employees from receiving unemployment compensation, provided that marijuana use was the only reason for the termination. (Although medical marijuana use no longer disqualifies Michigan employees from receiving unemployment, it is still legal in the state to terminate employees for marijuana use, including medical marijuana.)

We will keep you informed as the issue of legal marijuana – both medical and recreational – continues to develop.

Robin Shea has more than 20 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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