The use of medical marijuana in the California workplace has been a popular, if not confusing, topic as of late. With conflicting views on medical marijuana usage at the federal and state levels, many employers are understandably perplexed, if not a little nervous, while attempting to walk the fine line between federal law (which continues to recognize marijuana as an illegal substance) and contrary state laws (permitting marijuana both for medical and recreational use).
Perhaps a recent case out of a federal court in California will help shed some light on the matter. The case involves an employee who had worked at Kohl’s Department Stores for five years when he was diagnosed with anxiety and given a prescription for medical marijuana. He did not inform his employer of his drug use.
Kohl’s subsequently updated its employment policies to state that employees in California would not be discriminated against for valid medical use of marijuana. The plaintiff brought suit for alleged breach of contract, among other claims, after he was fired when a drug test following a work-site injury revealed his marijuana use.
While the court denied Kohl’s motion for summary judgment, finding that a reasonable jury could determine the employee would not be discriminated against for his medical marijuana use based on the employer’s policy, it did throw out a number of other claims under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
California business owners would be well-advised to take a close look at their policies and ensure that their hiring, firing, and related decisions fall in line with what they have outlined in their employment agreements.
For guidance on the use of medical marijuana in the California workplace, or to discuss whether your employment policy handbook is exposing your business to potential lawsuits, contact experienced business lawyer Drew E. Pomerance today.