It’s been 10 years since New Jersey first permitted residents to use marijuana for certain medical purposes. Nevertheless, a stigma remains surrounding the use of marijuana, even when used properly and for legitimate medical reasons. Sometimes, that stigma bleeds over into workplace discrimination. For New Jersey workers in that position, a recent ruling from the state Supreme Court is a huge win. The new ruling makes it clear that people who suffer workplace discrimination due to their proper use of medical marijuana may pursue – and win – disability discrimination lawsuits under the Law Against Discrimination. If you’ve suffered harm at work because of your employer’s disapproval of your proper use of medical marijuana, let this ruling be a motivation not to suffer in silence. Instead, call upon an experienced New Jersey disability discrimination attorney to investigate your legal options.
The case involved a North Jersey funeral director who had cancer. As part of the director’s cancer treatment, his doctor had prescribed medical marijuana. The employer found out about the director’s medical marijuana use after the director was injured in an on-the-job vehicle accident. (While working a funeral, the director had been struck by another driver who ran a stop sign.) The director clearly “was not under the influence of marijuana” at the time of the accident, according to the doctor who treated him.
Nevertheless, the funeral home fired the director. The director sued the funeral home for disability discrimination. The trial judge concluded that the director had no case, but the Appellate Division court reversed that decision and allowed the director to go forward.
The New Jersey Supreme Court also ruled in favor of the employee, upholding what the Appellate Division ruled, largely for the reasons that that court stated. The Supreme Court explicitly stated that the funeral director’s “disability discrimination and failure to accommodate causes of action” based on his use of legal medical marijuana were valid claims under the Law Against Discrimination.
What does that mean for me as a user of medical marijuana in New Jersey?
It means that the same protections that the Law Against Discrimination affords other workers with disabilities are afforded to you as a person with a condition that requires treatment with medical marijuana. The law says that it is illegal for “an employer, because of the… disability… of any individual, … to discharge… or to discriminate against such individual… in terms, conditions or privileges of employment.” There is an exception, but it only exists where “the disability reasonably precludes the performance” of that position’s essential duties.
So, if you’re a person who uses medical marijuana as part of his treatment, you should be entitled to the same protections as a worker with a condition that is being treated through the use of prescription opiates, one attorney told nj.com.
If you can show that your employer took a negative action (such as termination) against you because of your use of medical marijuana, that you were able to perform the essential duties of your job and that your employer did not have a legitimate and non-discriminatory reason for the action(s) it took, then you may have all the pieces you need to present a winning disability discrimination case.
The law is evolving regarding the range of treatments and drugs that the medical profession may prescribe, and disability discrimination law must change (and is changing) along with that. If you’ve been harmed at work due to discrimination or harassment, reach out to the skilled New Jersey disability discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our knowledgeable attorneys have many years of representing New Jersey workers and are completely up to date on the latest changes in the law and how to use them to your maximum benefit. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.