|If you live in Washington state, it doesn’t even matter if medical marijuana is legal.
You can be fired for using it — even legally — even if only if your off hours.
Employers in Washington state are allowed to fire employees who fail a drug test, even if they have a valid medical marijuana authorization, the state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
The court ruled that TeleTech Customer Care, a Colorado-based company that handles customer service for Sprint from its facility in Bremerton, Washington, was allowed to fire a woman for failing its required drug test, even though she is a legal medical marijuana patient, reports J.B. Wogan at the Seattle Times
The plaintiff was pulled out of her training class after just a week and fired on the spot on October 18, 2006, because she failed a pre-employment drug screen. She had a valid medical marijuana authorization from her doctor, and sued under the name Jane Roe.
The company claimed in court documents that its contract with Sprint required drug testing and makes no exception for medical marijuana.
|Photo: Jenkins Family Blog
|Washington Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers is the only friend medical marijuana patients have on the state’s highest court.
Roe’s attorney argued that Washington state law implied employers had to accommodate medical marijuana use outside the workplace. The court disagreed in a 8-1 decision, saying the law explicitly permits employers to disallow on-site medical marijuana use, but says nothing about such use outside the workplace.
The majority opinion noted that the state Human Rights Commission, which investigates employee discrimination cases, cannot pursue claims related to medical marijuana use because it is still illegal under federal law.
The law needs to be modified to protect employees’ right to legally use medical marijuana outside of work, according to Roe’s attorney, Michael Subit.
“The court said it wasn’t clear enough, so I hope the Legislature or the voters [through the initiative process] make it clear enough that no one can mistake it in the future,” Subit said.
Justice Tom Chambers, unfortunately in this case the only clear thinker on the Court, wrote the dissenting opinion, arguing that voters intended to protect patients who were authorized to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
He pointed out that TeleTech had a drug-screening policy that prohibited employees from using marijuana, even if it did not affect job performance. In fact, TeleTech did not even try to offer evidence that Roe’s marijuana use — to control migraines — impaired her ability to work.
So what we’re left with is some misguided policy of making enormous moral judgments about medical marijuana patients overruling rationality.
Justice Chambers rightly pointed out that the court’s decision “jeopardizes the clear policy” of the 1998 voter initiative and would discourage other people from seeking legal medical marijuana treatment for fear of getting fired.