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Volume XI, Number 24

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New Jersey Medical Marijuana User May Proceed With Discrimination Claim

The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed an appellate court ruling allowing a medical marijuana user to proceed with his disability discrimination claim under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).  Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc., No. 082836 (Mar. 10, 2020).

The plaintiff, a cancer patient and lawful user of medical marijuana, was involved in a motor vehicle accident while at work. He told a hospital physician that he possessed a license to use medical marijuana; however, the physician decided not to order a drug test because “it was clear” that the plaintiff was not under the influence of marijuana at that time.  The plaintiff subsequently was required to submit to drug testing by his employer before returning to work. The employer claimed it terminated the plaintiff’s employment due to his failure to disclose his lawful use of marijuana, not the positive drug test result.

The plaintiff filed a suit alleging disability discrimination and failure to accommodate under the LAD. At that time, the state medical marijuana law (Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, “CUMMA”) did not provide employment protections to users of medical marijuana.

The trial court granted the employer’s motion to dismiss after determining that the CUMMA “does not contain employment-related protections for licensed users of medical marijuana.” But the Appellate Division reversed, as we discussed in our earlier blog post, Medical Marijuana Users May Not Be Discriminated Against In New Jersey.  After that decision, the CUMMA was amended expressly to prohibit employers from taking adverse employment actions against a medical marijuana user if that adverse employment action is “based solely on the employee’s status” as a medical marijuana patient. See our article on the amendment, New Jersey Amends Medical Marijuana Law to Provide Job Protections, Include Drug Testing Procedures.

The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s ruling, concluding that the plaintiff stated a LAD claim that was sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Specifically, the plaintiff’s discrimination claims “derived in part from [the plaintiff’s] assertion that, outside the workplace, he lawfully used medical marijuana” for medical reasons, that is, to treat the symptoms of his cancer.  Moreover, there is no conflict between the CUMMA and the LAD, although there are two provisions of the CUMMA that could affect a plaintiff’s claim in certain settings, specifically: (1) the CUMMA does not require an employer to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana in the workplace; and (2) CUMMA does not require an employer to permit any person to “operate, navigate or be in actual physical control of any vehicle, aircraft, railroad train, stationary heavy equipment or vessel while under the influence of marijuana.”

The Court’s decision reminds employers to ensure company policies and protocols regarding medical marijuana meet the requirements in the CUMMA (now known as the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act). More importantly, this case serves as a caution to employers that regardless of the language in a state’s medical marijuana statute, a plaintiff may assert a disability discrimination claim in connection with their disability and related use of medical marijuana. Proper policies, compliant protocols, and training for management and human resources professionals are recommended to avoid potential claims.

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Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020National Law Review, Volume X, Number 72
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Kathryn J. Russo Disability Lawsuits Attorney Jackson Lewis Law firm Alcohol Testing Lawyer
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Kathryn J. Russo is a Principal in the Long Island, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She is a firm resource on the legal issues implicated in workplace drug and alcohol testing arising under federal, state and local laws.

Ms. Russo assists clients with workplace problems involving drugs and alcohol, and gives advice about compliance with all pertinent drug and alcohol testing laws. She prepares substance abuse policies to comply with all federal drug and alcohol testing regulations (including all agencies of the U.S....

631-247-0404
James M. McDonnell, Jackson Lewis, restrictive covenants lawyer, harassment retaliation attorney
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James M. McDonnell is a Principal in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He represents management exclusively in all aspects of employment litigation, including restrictive covenants, class-actions, harassment, retaliation, discrimination and wage and hour claims.

Mr. McDonnell regularly represents employers in federal and state courts and administrative agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, the United States Department of Labor, and...

973-451-6351
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