Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc., __ N.J.__ (2020)

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In Wild v. Carriage Funeral HoldingsInc.,  N.J.    (2020), the plaintiff was a funeral director who was diagnosed with cancer and prescribed medical marijuana, which is permitted pursuant to New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Act. After his employer learned he was a medical marijuana patient, it fired him for failing to disclose that he was using a medication that might impact his ability to perform his job duties safely.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging violations of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The trial court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, arguing that the Compassionate Use Act does not require an employee to accommodate a medical marijuana patient. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that although the Compassionate Use Act states that “nothing” within the Act shall “require . . . an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace,” that phrase meant only that an employer is not required to permit an employee to use medical marijuana in the workplace during work hours. The court held that the provisions of the LAD would otherwise apply to prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee who used medical marijuana outside the workplace.

The New Jersey Supreme Court granted certification. Pashman Stein Walder Hayden attorneys CJ Griffin and Dillon McGuire filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ), arguing that medical marijuana patients are entitled to the same employment protections as every other individual using prescription medication as a result of their disability. In addition to advocating for the Appellate Division’s statutory interpretation, ACLU-NJ argued that medical marijuana patients have a fundamental right to medical privacy and self-determination and that such rights demand that patients be able to decide what medical treatment to pursue, including opting to use medical marijuana, in lieu of highly addictive and dangerous opiates, to treat pain.

The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division and reinstated the plaintiff’s LAD claim. As a result of the decision, medical marijuana patients in New Jersey now have job protection and can bring a claim if their employer fires them or retaliates against them because of their medical marijuana use.

Press Coverage:

Fired NJ Medical Pot User Can Sue Over Disability Bias | Law360 | March 10, 2020
A New Jersey Supreme Court rules that MMJ patients can no longer be fired for failing a drug test |The Weed Blog | March 10, 2020
Court: Medical marijuana patients can’t be fired for testing positive for cannabis | NJBiz | March 10, 2020
Cannabis Law 'Harmonized' With LAD, Court Says in Green-Lighting Fired Worker's Discrimination Claim | New Jersey Law Journal | March 10, 2020
You can’t be fired in N.J. for failing drug test because of medical marijuana, court rules | NJ.com | March 10, 2020

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