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EMPLOYER ALERT: In New Jersey’s Latest Medical Marijuana in the Workplace Ruling, Employers Must Consider All Applicable Employment Laws, Not Just the Most Obvious One

Yesterday, in Wild v Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc., the Appellate Division reinstated a medical marijuana user’s lawsuit who had claimed that he was terminated for using medical marijuana outside of the workplace.  The plaintiff, who was undergoing treatment for cancer, was lawfully using medical marijuana for pain under the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.

In granting dismissal in favor of the employer, the lower court held that the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act did not unconditionally protect the use of marijuana by employees and further, did not insulate employees from compliance with the terms and conditions of an employer’s reasonable zero-tolerance/drug free workplace policy.  However, in reversing and remanding the lower court’s decision, the Appellate Division ruled that the matter had been dismissed prematurely, by not taking into consideration other employment laws that may afford protection to the plaintiff, such as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), noting in particular that an employer still has a duty to not discriminate based on a disability, and still has a duty to reasonably accommodate a known medical issue such as the one in this case, cancer.  The Appellate Division reinstated the complaint to allow the plaintiff an opportunity to prove disability discrimination and failure to accommodate violations under the LAD.

This ruling does nothing to disrupt the current state of the law, which is that employers still have the right to control what happens in the workplace and may continue to take steps to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all.  As this case demonstrates, issues involving medical marijuana continue to evolve as lawful medicinal marijuana employees are afforded more and more workplace protections.  And although a vote on recreational marijuana was just recently withdrawn for failure to garner enough support in the legislature, you can be certain it will be back, creating more questions for employers with respect to marijuana use by employees outside of the workplace.

© 2019 Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla, P.C. All Rights Reserved

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About this Author

Jay S. Becker, Giordano Law Firm, Labor Employment Attorney
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Mr. Becker, Chair of the Labor and Employment Practice Area, devotes his practice to labor relations and employment law and litigation on behalf of management. His experience includes conducting trials, hearings, arbitration and mediation sessions; responding to state and federal administrative agency charges; collective bargaining; drafting employment-related corporate documents such as restrictive covenants, employee handbooks, employment agreements, various stock and compensation plans, and separation/severance agreements. He counsels employers on all employee relations issues including...

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Ari G. Burd, Giordano Law Firm, Labor Employment Attorney
Associate

Mr. Burd practices in both the Labor and Employment Law Practice Area and the Health Care Practice Area. In the Labor and Employment Practice Area, Mr. Burd devotes his time to litigation and counseling employers with regard to traditional employment and labor related issues. Mr. Burd has extensive experience in both the state and federal courts in areas including retaliation, wrongful termination, wage and hour, sexual harassment and race, age, gender and disability discrimination. Mr. Burd also has considerable experience in assisting negotiating and drafting employment related agreements as well in counseling clients on employment and labor law issues, including hiring and termination decisions, wage and hour requirements, COBRA compliance, and the ADA. In the Health Care Practice Area, Mr. Burd provides counsel to hospitals, physicians, and physician groups in transactional, regulatory, corporate and litigation related matters. Mr. Burd often provides assistance in a wide array of matters involving issues such as breach of contract, anti-trust, charity care, Stark, Anti-kickback and HIPAA. Mr. Burd is the co-author of The New Jersey Healthcare Law Blog, a blog dedicated to providing Federal and State healthcare news, laws, regulations, and upcoming events pertaining to the healthcare field.

732-741-3900