A federal court just greenlit the failure-to-accommodate claim of a medical marijuana user. But why?!?


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Oh, I was just asking. I thought you knew.

Ok, let’s start over.  Since I did read this opinion and, apparently, it’s my job to do the ‘splaining around here.

Just don’t accuse me of blog-splaining.

Anyway, according to the plaintiff, an employee of a local health system, she began experiencing significant back pain and took time off for surgery. When the plaintiff requested to return to work, the defendant-employer required her to take a drug test because she had been on leave for over 90 days.

The plaintiff reported for the drug test and provided the administering nurse copies of her prescriptions, including an expired medical marijuana card. The nurse told the plaintiff that the medical marijuana card had expired in August and proceeded with the drug test. After the drug test, the plaintiff’s doctor re-certified her for medical marijuana use, and the plaintiff renewed her card. However, the defendant soon fired her. The plaintiff tried several times to discuss and resolve the situation with the defendant to no avail. She promptly filed discrimination charges and a lawsuit.

If some of this sounds familiar, it should. I blogged about this case back in October, when the same federal court concluded that the Commonwealth’s medical marijuana law implied a private cause of action. However, the court left open the issue of whether the employer would have to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana outside of work.

This time around, well, the court didn’t exactly answer that lingering question.

You see, the defendant assumed that the plaintiff was claiming that her prescribed use of medical marijuana qualified as a disability under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, the Commonwealth’s anti-discrimination law. Thus, the defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to allege that she had a PHRA-disability.

And the court was like, bruh, you don’t get it. That’s not what the plaintiff is saying at all:

[S]he alleges she suffered from a herniated disk and “related spinal injuries” which caused her pain and limited her ability to “perform manual tasks, walk, and sleep.” She also claims that [the defendant] previously accommodated this disability by letting her work from home in 2019….[Plaintiff] has alleged a disability apart from her medical marijuana use.

Therefore, the plaintiff will have the opportunity to pursue her failure-to-accommodate claim. Presumably, however, the defendant will argue that the positive drug test was a legitimate business reason to terminate the plaintiff’s employment (rather than accommodate the back injury further). So, it’s unclear now how this case may end.

But, I’m not being paid the big bucks to litigate this case. So, I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.

Heck, no one pays me to write about it either.



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