Company owes damages for employment discrimination

Medical marijuana has been legalized in Rhode Island, as well as 28 other states and Washington, D.C. However, the use of medical marijuana to treat pain and various medical conditions is a hot topic in the news these days.

Darlington Fabrics Corp., a Rhode Island fabrics company, was sued in 2014 by a potential employee for workplace discrimination after she was told that she would not be given a paid internship due to her legal use of medicinal marijuana for migraine headaches. The woman told them that she would not bring marijuana to work and that she would not be under the influence of the drug while at work, but the company insisted that she could not be hired due to her failure to pass a drug test.

The judge in this case ruled that the company violated the state medical marijuana law by refusing to hire the woman. The law states that the employer cannot penalize someone solely for being a medical marijuana cardholder. The company argued that she was not hired due to her failure to pass the drug test, not her status as a cardholder. The judge found this argument unconvincing, stating that a person legally using marijuana, unlike a recreational user, would not be able to stop taking the drug just to pass a drug test.

The company is now required to pay the woman compensatory and punitive damages, but plans to appeal the ruling at the state Supreme Court level.

Many find that the judge's decision is a step forward in protecting the rights of disabled employees. Hiring decisions, promotions, firings or any other job-related decision cannot and should not be made based on the medications the employee is taking.

Source: The Washington Times, "Medical marijuana patient wins employment discrimination suit in Rhode Island," Andrew Blake, May 24, 2017

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