Understanding Wrongful Terminations and Medical Marijuana Act – Arizona

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An ex-Amazon employee recently sued the tech giant. Interestingly, it wasn’t for sexual harassment, failure to pay wages, or breach of contract. Rather, it was for wrongful termination based on the employee’s use of medical marijuana. Marijuana use is on the rise, and many states—including Arizona—are legalizing its use for medicinal and even recreational purposes. 

According to the complaint filed in Pennsylvania federal court (Miller v. Amazon.com Services Inc. et al., No. 21-cv-944, (E.D. Pa. 2021)), Nathan Miller argued that Amazon wrongfully terminated him because he used cannabis even though he had a medical marijuana license. The complaint says that Miller used cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

In addition, the complaint alleges that Miller, a seasonal worker, was upfront about his use of medical cannabis and told his supervisors about it. He even failed a required drug test when applying for a full-time position. With the legalization of marijuana, this is becoming a frequent issue that employers should be ready to deal with.

Accurate, Comprehensive Employee Handbooks Can Help Avoid Legal Issues

One way an employer can help ensure that every employee knows the company’s policies regarding drug testing and other issues is by issuing a thorough, up-to-date employee handbook. An employee handbook spells out policies and procedures that all employees are expected to follow. It explains key company policies to help avoid confusion, prevent disputes, and provide a reference point if there is a disagreement. 

Another important purpose of an employee handbook is to provide a convenient place for the employer to state certain policies required by law. This especially includes polices related to drug and alcohol testing, which employees must clearly understand. Companies can face significant liabilities if their employees are impaired by drugs or alcohol at work. Moreover, Arizona has drug testing regulations that employers must adhere to.

Arizona also has laws pertaining to medicinal and recreational marijuana. Under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, Arizona employers may not discriminate against an employee who has a medical marijuana card if the employee tests positive for marijuana.

At the same time, it is illegal for an employee to be impaired by marijuana while at work. An employer also may choose not to place someone with a medical marijuana card in a “safety-sensitive” position if the employer believes in good faith that the employee is currently using any drug, if that drug could impair the employee such that their job performance, their safety, or the safety of other employees could be affected.

Operating heavy machinery, working at a customer’s home or place of business, handling food, or performing medical or engineering tasks are examples of “safety-sensitive” positions.

In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees with disabilities. If an employee has a medical condition like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression, the employer must determine whether there is a reasonable accommodation available. Such a reasonable accommodation could include medical marijuana use to long as it does not cause impairment (just like other prescription drugs). 

Because violating the Medical Marijuana Act, ADA, and other state and federal laws carries significant penalties, employers should carefully draft policies that reflect these laws and clearly explain the policies in their employee handbooks. This will put every employee on notice of what is expected and contribute to a smoother-operating business.  

Contact Counxel Legal Firm

If you would like to talk to an attorney about what an employee handbook should contain, contact us at (480) 744-6621 or at request@counxel.com. Don’t forget to check out the good things that others are saying about the services they received from Timothy Coons on Google.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice for your specific situation. Use of and access to this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Counxel Legal Firm. Please contact request@counxel.com or (480) 744-6621 to request specific information for your situation.

*Conveniently located off the 101 Freeway and the US 60 in the middle of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and Queen Creek!

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