This is going to be an interesting case for California, a state that has a medical marijuana law that is in direct opposition to federal law.
The California Supreme Court today heard arguments in the case of an employee who was terminated from his position in 2001 for failing a company drug screen.
Said employee, Gary Ross, was using medical marijuana to treat a back injury previously sustained in the Armed Forces. Mr. Ross claims that by terminating him, his former employer violated state law, The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and quite possibly the ADA, as they were not willing to accommodate his disability. And the company claims that marijuana is not legal under Federal law and state laws were not ever intended to condone drug use in the workplace.
As stated, this one is a doozy. Most employers I know have a zero tolerance-illicit drug and alcohol policy, though prescription drugs are often included, particularly if they affect an employee’s conduct and performance. To this point, Mr. Ross stated that the marijuana relieved his symptoms so he could get back to work but if he had taken Vicodin he would have had to take time off.
So if this employee’s doctor prescribed medical marijuana (legal) to him and it did not affect his conduct and/or performance is it considered a violation of the company’s drug policy?
I can see both sides of the issue as I believe that seriously ill patients should have access to every/any substance that is going to mitigate their pain. I also believe that employees should not be under the influence of illicit drugs while in the workplace due to safety and other reasons.
I admit that I am truly unsure as to what I would do as HR in this situation.
I’m curious to hear the opinions of others…
1/23/08 UPDATE: Okay, so the verdict is in. The court decided today that FEHA does not require that an employer allow marijuana use as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. Read it here.