“STONED AT WORK” – A HOT WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION DEBATE

In 2014, a Drug and Alcohol Review survey found that 5% of California adults over the age of 21 had used medical cannabis at least once for a “severe” condition.

 

5% of California employees – roughly a million people.

Now, what happens when these legal medical cannabis users go to work?

According to the same survey, “many employers nonetheless prohibit workers from using medical cannabis but allow them to use other, more dangerous and addictive drugs such as opiates when prescribed by their physicians.”

That needs to be re-stated:

Employers can prohibit workers from using medically prescribed cannabis BUT allow them to use other medically prescribed drugs.

IS EMPLOYER BIAS AGAINST CANNABIS USE WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION?

All of us know of friends, family members that have been fired unfairly or been discriminated against at work. It seems like employers – even in an at-will state like California – can always try to find creative reasons to fire someone, regardless of whether it's legal or not.

Now, there is a whole new area of employment law that's being debated in California:

As the marijuana laws here in California continue to change, what will become of workplace discrimination against medical marijuana patients?

Right now, today, while marijuana may be legal for adults 21 and over, you can still lose your job for  marijuana use while you are not at work ----- regardless of whether it was medically prescribed or not.

Legally, California employers are allowed to deny employment opportunities or cease employing someone based on their cannabis use, regardless of whether or not the cannabis was medically prescribed.

WILL A NEW BILL PROTECT LEGAL CANNABIS USE AT WORK?

In February, California Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) AND Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) introduced Assembly Bill 2069 (AB 2069).

An interesting section of AB 2069 states that:

“This bill would prohibit an employer from engaging in employment discrimination against a person on the basis of his or her status as, or positive drug test for cannabis by, provide that, when used to treat a known physical or mental disability or known medical condition, the medical use of cannabis by a qualified patient or person with an identification card. card is subject to reasonable accommodation.”

What AB 2069 attempts to do is amend the existing Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). In doing so, AB 2069 would turn the tide and make it unlawful for a California employer to take punitive or disciplinary action against an employment applicant based on the fact that they are a medical cannabis card holder, a current employee based on the fact that they are a medical cannabis card holder, or either of the latter, as long as they are a cannabis card holder, of the latter who test positive drug test for cannabis use.

CALIFORNIA IS NOT ALONE

Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have already adopted new laws to protect  medically prescribed cannabis patients from workplace or employment discrimination.

Earlier this year, Maine went so far as to reportedly prohibit employers from discriminating or discharging employees from off-duty cannabis use.

The times are changing, to be sure.

Our employment attorneys will continue to protect California workers that have been wrongfully terminated.

And, we will monitor this entire debate.

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