Marijuana use was illegal in the United States for years, but attitudes all over the country have changed, and as of February 22nd of 2021, possession of up to 6 ounces of marijuana became legal in the state of New Jersey. But even before that broader law was passed, New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana in January of 2010 (though the patient registry did not fully open until August of 2012.) In March of 2020 the state’s Supreme Court agreed with a lower court decision that patients prescribed medical marijuana are protected by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. But that ruling - and a law specifically indicating that employees could not be fired for testing positive for marijuana use - did nothing to prevent National DCP, a company that services Dunkin’ Donuts franchises, from firing 53-year-old Paul Myers. Now he has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against his employer.
Myers began working for the company in 2019, and shortly after he was hired he began treatment for cancer. The side effects of his treatment combined with his already-existing Crohn’s disease forced him to take extended medical leave from his job. His need for sick time generated both questions and hostility.
As a result of his significant pain his physician recommended that he use medical cannabis, and he was in the process of securing authorization to join the state’s medical marijuana program when his employer asked him to undergo a drug test. The test was administered three days after Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation eliminating criminal penalties and fines for marijuana use. The same law acknowledged that employers could conduct random and pre-employment drug tests for marijuana, but prohibited firing, disciplinary action or failure to hire an applicant based on a positive test result.
Though Mr. Myers’ lawsuit is based on these prohibitions, the rules and regulations regarding enforcement have not yet become operational, as guidelines are still being written by the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission. This leaves employees caught between to different policies. In Mr. Myers’ case, the company requested proof of authorization for medical marijuana use and provided him three business days to provide it. Because he could not get an appointment with his physician in time for the deadline he was unable to provide the documentation and was subsequently fired.
Mr. Myers’ wrongful termination claim is being viewed as a test of the state’s cannabis laws. If you are a marijuana user who has been fired, disciplined, or refused employment based on a positive marijuana test, your rights may have been violated. For assistance in determining whether you have the right to pursue legal action, contact the employment attorneys at Schorr & Associates today to set up a time for an appointment.