Conflicts with Legalized Cannabis Laws Spell Trouble in the Workplace

Because of the legalization of cannabis in a number of states, more employers now have to face a growing number of issues regarding its use. A recent article on the website suggests that in light of the Trump administration’s directive of prosecuting “marijuana activities” employers and HR managers should engage in an interactive dialogue with an applicant or employee if cannabis is being used to address a disability.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently ruled in the case, Barbuto v. Advantage Sales & Mktg. LLC, that employers may not rely on prohibitions of cannabis use when determining the qualifications of a job applicant.

Barbuto filed suit against Advantage Sales alleging discrimination against her disability of Crohn’s disease. The plaintiff further alleged that she was eliminated from being considered for a position after taking a drug test and testing positive for cannabis use.

In spite of Barbuto having a doctor’s written certification that her cannabis use was directly related to the treatment of her disability and it was legal within the state of Massachusetts, Advantage Sales countered that their duty was to follow federal law rather than the state law.

The Court sided with Barbuto, ruling that Advantage Sales, as the employer had a “duty to engage in an interactive process with the employee”.   The interactive process was to also consider alternative treatments for the employee and to make accommodation for Barbuto in order for her to perform her job.  The request for the employee to be allowed to use medical cannabis was not unreasonable based solely on the claim that it against federal law under the current administration.