The state of New Jersey has long been known as one of the country’s most progressive in its protection of people at risk for discrimination. Whether facing harassment, termination, retribution or some other adverse employment action, victims in the Garden State are able to take advantage of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), as well as additional federal and state laws as they apply. A recent decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court made the power of NJLAD clear: The justices of the court ruled that both the NJLAD and the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act (CUMCA) could be applied in cases where employers discriminated against medical cannabis users, and that the terms of one do not preclude use of the other.
The case was filed by Justin Wild, a funeral director who had been employed by Carriage Funeral Holdings since 2013. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, and at the time was prescribed medical marijuana to address his pain. In 2016 he was on duty with the funeral home, driving one of their vehicles, when he was involved in a car accident caused by another motorist who ran a red light. Upon being taken to the hospital to treat his injuries, he informed the medical staff of his legal marijuana use and that he had used the drug the night before. The emergency room staff confirmed at the time that he was not under the influence.
After the accident, Wild informed his employer of his legal marijuana use, which he confirmed only occurred while off duty while at home. Despite this, the company fired him on the basis of his drug use, citing a clause in the medical cannabis act that explicitly protects employers wishing to terminate employees for use of medical marijuana in the workplace. Following his termination, Mr. Wild filed a lawsuit against Carriage citing violations of both NJLAD and CUMCA. His original claim was dismissed, but upon appeal was reinstated. That decision was appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which confirmed the appellate court decision and allows Mr. Wild’s pursuit of justice to continue.
The state supreme court’s decision is notable in its clarification that medical cannabis users in New Jersey have multiple legal routes available to them, especially when the marijuana use is restricted to use outside of the workplace. If you are a medical marijuana user and you believe that your prescribed use has led to your dismissal from your job, or if you have faced any other form of illegal employment discrimination, contact us today to set up a time to discuss your situation.