After the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Monday in favor of an employee fired after testing positive for marijuana, some legal experts are shocked.
“I can’t stress this enough, it’s the first case of its kind in the country,” said Dale Deitchler, a shareholder at world’s largest labor and employment law firm representing management Littler Mendelson and an expert on marijuana issues in the workplace.
Cristina Barbuto was fired after her first day promoting products in a supermarket for Advantage Sales and Marketing in 2014. A human resources representative informed her that she did not pass the drug test and that the company follows federal, not state law.
Barbuto suffers from Crohn’s disease, a gastrointestinal condition, and has written certification of her condition from her doctor. She did not use marijuana daily nor would she consume it before or during work, according to court documents.
She filed suit in Suffolk County Superior Court, accusing the company of discrimination in 2015 and was given the ok to sue by the highest court in the state on Monday.
This ruling affirmatively recognizing a level of worker-related protection under state medical marijuana laws.
“Massachusetts is not a state where such protections are written in the law so this is really significant,” Deitchler said. “The court created law.”
While both medical and recreational use is now allowed, workers still cannot use marijuana before or during work. Workers can still be drug tested and fired for failing a drug test if it is not part of an approved treatment plan for a medical condition.
Safety-sensitive employees such as pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, etc are not allowed accommodations for medical use of marijuana.