NJ Attorney General Says Corporation Illegally Denied Medical Cannabis Patient A Job After Drug Test

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New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) said there was illegal discrimination against a medical cannabis patient who tried to get a job.

They issued a “Finding of Probable Cause.”

Discrimination Against NJ Medical Cannabis Patient

They said that Prince Telecom LLC discriminated against an applicant for employment based on disability in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).

Prince Telecom is a corporation that constructs and maintains telecommunications and cable systems. They initially offered an applicant a job pending a drug test. The applicant presented a medical marijuana prescription and noted that he used medical marijuana to treat a disability.

But when the applicant tested positive for medical cannabis, Prince Telecom rescinded its offer of employment five days later.

The applicant responded by advising a human resources representative that he had a medical marijuana prescription for treating his disability. He also stated “I believe there are protections afforded me under the law.”

Their representative did not respond.

According to the complaint, the applicant tried to work with the company to seek an accommodation that would allow him to do the job.

The company’s human resources director promised to reach out to him again but did not. Failure to engage in the interactive process to consider accommodations for the candidate’s disability is a violation of the law.

Prince Telecom asserted that an accommodation to its drug screening requirements would impose an “undue hardship” on its operations. However, the company could not provide any proof that it worked with the applicant to determine his cannabis-use needs. They also could not otherwise demonstrate that providing an accommodation would impose an undue hardship.

Breaking the Law

The New Jersey Attorney General’s office concluded that Prince Telecom violated the law. They did so by failing to consider accommodations for the applicant’s disability.

Once an employer becomes aware that an employee or applicant has a disability, the employer must engage in an “interactive process” with the employee to determine whether it can offer accommodation. The employer must make reasonable accommodation. Unless it can show that an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on its business.

DCR found that Prince Telecom failed to engage in the interactive process. They feel reasonable accommodation would not have imposed an undue hardship on Prince Telecom.

“New Jersey’s civil rights laws require that employers discuss how to develop accommodations that will allow employees with disabilities to perform their duties,” said Attorney General Platkin. “But this employer cut off all communication, refusing to even try to work with their candidate. Their failure to act violates the law, and we will not tolerate that.”

“Our laws provide strong protections against discrimination based on disability. Those protections mean that employers can’t discriminate against employees based on their treatment for a disability. Including their use of marijuana to treat or alleviate the symptoms of a disability,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights.

“We remain committed to enforcing the protections our civil rights laws afford against disability discrimination in employment. And to ensuring that all employers are aware of their obligations under the law,” he added.

Medical Cannabis Patient Rights Protected

The protections provided by the LAD for individuals who use marijuana to treat or alleviate the symptoms of a disability co-exist with the employment protections provided by other laws signed by Governor Phil Murphy in recent years.

Under the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, employers cannot take adverse employment action against an employee if they are registered as a medical marijuana patient with the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. 

Furthermore, under the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA) that establishes the New Jersey adult-use cannabis market, an employee or applicant cannot be subject to adverse action by an employer solely due to a positive drug test for cannabis. 

New Jersey employers must make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities who use medical marijuana to treat their disability. Unless doing so would impose an “undue hardship” on their business.

This was great progress and a big announcement. But more action is required for the New Jersey medical cannabis patient to get justice.

So now the case will go to conciliation. During that process, the parties will have the opportunity to negotiate a voluntary resolution. If no voluntary resolution is reached, DCR will appoint a Deputy Attorney General to prosecute the case either in the Office of Administrative Law or in Court.

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