Reefer Madness: Funeral Director May Seek Reasonable Accommodation for Off Duty Medical Marijuana Use March 30, 2019
On March 27, 2019, the New Jersey Appellate Division in Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings Inc. reversed the dismissal of an action under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) alleging failure to accommodate out-of-office use of medical marijuana for cancer treatment. The Court held that New Jersey Compassionate Use Act’s mandate that employers need not accommodate medical marijuana users in the workplace does not foreclose an action under the LAD when the employee was suffering from a disability and was not seeking to use marijuana during work.
Justin Wild, a licensed funeral director, was employed by Carriage Funeral Holdings (Carriage). In 2015, Wild was diagnosed with cancer and was prescribed medical marijuana as part of his treatment. In May 2016, while working, Wild was in a car accident and was taken to an emergency room. Wild disclosed to the hospital that he had a license to use medical marijuana. Because Wild did not appear to be under the influence of marijuana at the time, the treating physician declined to perform a blood test.
The trial court dismissed Wild’s LAD and defamation claims, citing the New Jersey Compassionate Use Act’s mandate that that nothing “require[s] . . . an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace.” N.J.S.A. 24:6I-14.
Appellate Division Reverses and Allows Wild His Day In Court: Because the case arrived after a motion to dismiss, the Appellate Division was constrained to accept as true Wild’s allegations. In this context, the Appellate Division held, Wild plainly pleaded the prima facie elements of a LAD claim: he alleged that he was disabled because he had cancer, he was able to continue to work as a funeral director, and that his employment was terminated.
Bottom Line: As norms evolve with respect to the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes, employers must be extremely careful with respect to employee use of marijuana. In New Jersey, the Compassionate Use Act allows employers to prohibit the use of medical marijuana at work and do not need to accommodate marijuana use at-work. The Wild decision is a reminder for employers to engage in the interactive process and exercise caution if an employee is using marijuana outside of work and is not under the influence on the job. Termination of an employee solely on that basis will be problematic and may lead to liability under the LAD.
For complete article – Marijuana Mayhem – Employees need to be sober to work!