Employers in Massachusetts may not terminate employees who use medical marijuana in accordance with a prescription according to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s recent ruling in Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC. Barbuto, a former Advantage employee, disclosed her medical marijuana usage at the time of her hire. Ms. Barbuto worked for only one day before she was terminated for failing the company’s mandatory drug test. The company’s drug policies followed the federal drug schedule, not local Massachusetts law. The court found for Ms. Barbuto by stating that, in terminating her employment, the company illegally discriminated against her.

The Court reasoned that medicinal marijuana prescribed for treatment purposes is as lawful as the use and possession of other prescribed medications, and that limiting access to medicinal treatments constitutes disability discrimination. The court, in part, relied on a Massachusetts law that states: any person who falls under the medical marijuana act shall not be penalized in any manner, or denied any right or privilege. This differs from California law, which legalizes medical marijuana yet specifically allows employers to prohibit marijuana in the workplace.

What does this mean for you? Massachusetts employers may not use blanket “drug-free workplace” policies to terminate employees whose doctors have prescribed marijuana to help treat medical conditions. This Court found that these policies deny handicapped employees the opportunity of a reasonable accommodation—a violation of the anti-handicap discrimination laws. Massachusetts employers must be sure to not effectively deny a handicapped employee the opportunity of a reasonable accommodation.

For more legal updates, check out our update for September 2017!

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