In a resounding victory for employers, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that an employer had no obligation to consider an exception to its drug policy for a medical marijuana user who claimed to have a disability. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) had taken the position that the company should have engaged in an interactive process to determine whether it could reasonably accommodate the individual’s disability.
The employee was hired into a temporary position as a drill press operator in a steel plant. He had a medical marijuana card and used marijuana away from work one to three times per day. He disclosed this use when he realized he would have to pass a drug test to be considered for a regular position, and the company fired him a week later.
The court said federal law overrides Oregon’s attempt to authorize the use of medical marijuana, so the employee’s drug use was illegal and therefore not protected under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act or Oregon state law against disability discrimination. The court noted that its decision doesn’t affect the provisions of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act that protect medical marijuana users from criminal prosecution under state law (Emerald Steel Fabricators, Inc. v. Bureau of labor and Industries, Or, April 2010).
Tips: If an individual tests positive for marijuana, you are free to apply the normal consequences in your policy, regardless of whether the individual carries a medical marijuana card. If you currently are accommodating an employee’s medical marijuana use, contact your Vigilant staff representative if you wish to revisit the situation. For more information, see our Legal Guide, “Medical Marijuana in the Workplace” (3405).