New Jersey’s new cannabis law is being tested by a fired worker, who is suing his former employer, alleging he was wrongfully terminated due to marijuana use. The top court of New Jersey, ruled last year in March that workers cannot be fired for using medical marijuana in their free time. Although the new legalization law aims to extend these protections to those 21 and older, there are still hurdles when it comes to employment practices and cannabis. Paul Myers,53, filed the lawsuit in state Superior Court in Burlington County in June.
He claims National DCP, a supply chain company that services Dunkin’ Donuts franchises, broke the law when terminating him from its Westampton facility earlier this year. Myers was hired back in 2019. He has Crohn’s disease and underwent treatment for cancer shortly after he began the job, according to the plea. The procedures required extensive medical leave, as did his Crohn’s disease symptoms.
He was met with much hostility from his employer, the suit alleges, as his need for time off was questioned. Myers’ doctor suggested he try medical cannabis, to deal with his ongoing symptoms. He took his doctor’s advice and began the process to enter the state’s medical marijuana program. It wasn’t until three days later, his employers asked him to take a drug test.
Under the new law, employers can still conduct random and pre-employment drug screens for marijuana use, but cannot terminate, discipline, or refuse to hire someone if the results come back positive. Employers can still ban marijuana use at work. To enforce that, they must have a certified Workplace Impairment Recognition Expert on hand to witness impaired behavior by an employee and a positive drug test indicating the presence of marijuana in a person’s system.
Unlike alcohol, cannabis stays in a person’s system for longer periods, up to a month after they’ve hit the bong in some cases.
This makes it difficult to determine whether or not a person is currently impaired while at the workplace. Attorneys have also noted the confusion as the state is between two different drug testing policies. While some workplaces choose to enforce the old policy, others choose to do away with it altogether, as reported by NJ Advance Media.
Sheila Mints, a healthcare and cannabis attorney with Capehard Scathard in Mount Laurel, New Jersey said, “doing it creates a potential legal issue, and not doing it creates a potential legal issue.” She continued, saying, “You really don’t know what the right thing is to do. Other aspects of the law have not caught up to the legalization part of it.” National DCP asked Myers to produce proof of authorization to use medical marijuana and gave him three business days to come up with a doctor’s note, the lawsuit states.
Ultimately, he could not get an appointment in time and was terminated shortly after. His lawsuit alleges his previous employers broke the State Law Against Discrimination, the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, and the new marijuana legalization law.