RIDGEWOOD, N.J. (WCBS 880) – A New Jersey appeals court says employers cannot fire employees who take medical marijuana and fail a drug test.
The ruling says marijuana patients are protected under the state Law Against Discrimination as long as they aren't high on the job.
The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by Justin Wild, a former funeral director in Ridgewood who took medical cannabis to manage pain caused by cancer.
Wild didn’t tell his bosses, but they found out after he got into a car accident while on the job. He says he wasn’t high at the time of the crash, but they fired him.
The court originally said there were no employment protections for licensed medical marijuana users, but an appeal yielded a reversal of that decision.
Employment and labor attorney Mickey Neuhauser says the ruling by the state’s appellate division has sweeping effects for people who work at places that drug test.
“Mr. Wild was entitled to have that interactive communication with his employer to determine whether his off-duty use of cannabis was something that the employer could reasonably accommodate,” Neuhauser told WCBS 880.
Neuhauser says questions still remain about what constitutes an employer having to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee who is prescribed medical marijuana.
Regardless of the decision – is there a responsibility the employee has to tell bosses about his or her use?
“You can certainly see the potential need for an employer being entitled to know what is the individual’s schedule for taking the medication,” Neuhauser said.
“There’s going to be a difference between somebody taking it at night and somebody having an edible with morning coffee before walking into the office,” she said.
Neuhauser says if taking medical marijuana affects an employee’s performance, that’s something they should bring to their boss’ attention.
The ruling also states that an employer’s obligation to accommodate must be examined on a case by case basis.