Workers Comp Magazine

In an article for the Spring 2019 issue of Workers Comp Magazine, Birmingham partner Brooke Nixon unpacks recent legislation in the growing trend of marijuana legalization across the country, including the impact for employers in states where the drug has been legalized – especially as it pertains to workers’ compensation litigation.

Most employer compliance concerns related to marijuana surround the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and employer responsibility in preventing discrimination on the basis of a medical condition or employee disability. Though marijuana laws vary from state to state, it’s still illegal under federal law, and employers are not required to accommodate an employee’s medical marijuana use – even if legally prescribed. Still, this doesn’t mean an employer can necessarily fire an employee just for using medically-prescribed marijuana.

In workers’ compensation cases, many insurers refuse to pay the cost of medical marijuana to treat an injury – even with a doctor’s prescription and despite being required by some state laws to do so. Additionally, employees testing positive for marijuana in a post-injury blood test may also be denied workers’ compensation benefits despite being a legal, medical user. While these conflicts make their way through the court system, it is unfortunately unclear whether denying an insurance claim for legal users is will be allowed into the future.

In the meantime, due to the varied nature of marijuana laws – both medical and recreational – Brooke advises employment counsel and human resources departments to work closely together to ensure that the company’s policies are in compliance with state and federal law, taking special care to ensure all managers and other decision-makers are aware of the actions that can and cannot be taken against employee marijuana users.

To view the full article, please click here.

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