Medical Marijuana and Disability Discrimination in New Jersey
The highest court in New Jersey recently ruled that workers should not be terminated based on taking medical marijuana for a medical condition under a doctor’s prescription. They are protected by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and the Compassionate Use Act. If you take medical marijuana for your disability or medical condition, and are concerned about the impact on your employment, you should call the experienced New Jersey disability discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys are familiar with the current state of the law regarding medical marijuana and disability discrimination in New Jersey.Medical Marijuana and Disability Discrimination in New Jersey
In Justin Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that medical marijuana patients are protected against employment discrimination on that basis by the NJLAD. The plaintiff had been diagnosed with cancer in 2015, and he was prescribed marijuana. He worked as a licensed funeral director at the time. While he was handling a funeral, his car was hit by a car that ran a stop sign. While being treated at the hospital, he told the doctor treating him that he was licensed to possess medical marijuana. His doctor said that it was obvious that he was not under the influence, so he did not need blood tests.
However, the plaintiff’s employer told him that he would need to get tested to go back to work. He was tested and handled another funeral, but days after that, he was told that his test had come back positive for marijuana and was terminated. After that, his employer told him that he was terminated, not for using drugs, but for failing to let them know about his use of medication, which could negatively affect his capacity to perform his job duties. Months after he lost his job, his mom received a phone call from somebody who worked for a different funeral home, who told her that she had heard that the plaintiff was terminated for being a drug addict.
The plaintiff sued, claiming that he could not be lawfully fired for using medical marijuana without violating the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The lower court granted his employer’s motion to dismiss on the basis that the Compassionate Use Act does not provide protection for employees who are licensed to use medical marijuana.
However, the appellate court reversed the dismissal. The appellate court reasoned that the plaintiff was claiming a disability that supported his use of medical marijuana, and the New Jersey anti-discrimination law makes it illegal for an employer to terminate an employee, or otherwise discriminate against an employee, based on his or her disability.
The appellate court explained that even if the Compassionate Use Act does not mandate that an employer accommodate use of medical marijuana on the job, the NJLAD would still impose that obligation. The plaintiff was only looking for an accommodation that would allow him to continue to use medical marijuana outside work.
The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s ruling, although it did not adopt the view expressed at the appellate level; that the Compassionate Use Act meant to cause no impact on existing employment rights. It held that the Compassionate Use Act could be harmonized with the anti-discrimination law, and the plaintiff’s claim was sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination
If you have a medical condition for which you have been prescribed medical marijuana, you have important rights. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination on the basis of an actual or perceived disability, as well as blood traits, atypical hereditary cellular traits, and genetic test results. Disabilities include mental, physical, psychological, and developmental conditions, whether they are caused by injuries, illnesses, or birth defects, which stop the normal use of mental or bodily functions or can be shown with accepted diagnostic techniques. Note, there is an exception for when the degree of the disability reasonably precludes proper job performance. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination covers all public and private employers, irrespective of size.Consult an Experienced Disability Discrimination Lawyer
If you are dealing with an issue related to medical marijuana and disability discrimination in New Jersey, you should discuss your situation with Phillips & Associates. Our firm is committed to fighting for workers who are disabled. Our attorneys handle lawsuits on behalf of people throughout Passaic, Bergen, Morris, Essex, Union, Hudson, Somerset, Middlesex, Monmouth, Mercer, Burlington, and Camden Counties. Call us at (609) 436-9087 or contact us through our online form for a free consultation.
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