In a case that secures employment protections for New Jersey medical marijuana patients, Jamison Mark successfully argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court that an employer may not terminate an employee for legal use of medical cannabis.
The plaintiff, Justin Wild, worked as a licensed funeral director for Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc. Following a cancer diagnosis, Wild’s physician recommended cannabis as provided in New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Act. The following year, Wild was working a funeral when another driver ran a stop sign and struck the vehicle Wild was driving. Wild was taken to the hospital for treatment of his injuries.
At the hospital, Wild advised his treating physician that he was legally allowed to possess medical marijuana. The physician determined that Wild was not under the influence at the time and that there was no need for a blood test but stated that a blood test would come back positive because of his ongoing use. Wild’s employer, however, insisted that a drug test was needed before he would be allowed to return to work. Following the test, Wild was informed that he was being terminated from his job because of the drugs in his system.
Wild filed suit, claiming that his termination was in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). The trial court initially dismissed the case, citing the state legislature’s declaration in the Compassionate Use Act that “Nothing in this act shall be construed to require…an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace.”
1 NJ Rev Stat § 10:5-1 to -49 (2013)
² NJ Rev Stat § 24:6I-14 (2017)
The Appellate Division reversed the lower court’s decision, finding that Wild has a right under the NJLAD to legally treat his disability without fear of adverse employment action. While the Compassionate Use Act clearly requires no accommodation for an employee’s use of medical cannabis, Wild did not request one because his use, which was limited to non-working hours, did not interfere with his ability to perform his job.
Jamison Mark argued that Wild had proven his ability to perform his job while using medical marijuana: “…for the year before he was terminated, he had the card, he was using the medical marijuana as a patient, and he was performing his job stellarly. And in fact, even after the auto accident, he continued to do his job with minor accommodation because of the auto accident and the pain.”
Wild’s employer appealed the Appellate Division’s decision, but on March 10, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the ruling, substantially relying on the Appellate Division’s reasoning. Mark applauded the decision, stating, “This protects hundreds, if not thousands of employees who’ve faced the stigma of marijuana.”
Jamison Mark is the founding and managing partner at the Mark Law Firm, where we proudly fight for our clients seeking justice in a variety of practice areas. We provide experienced representation in employment discrimination and other legal matters so we can defend your rights.
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