Changes to marijuana laws in Michigan have had a significant effect on workers’ rights. As of now, you could lose your job for lawfully using the substance. Prior to the legalization of medical marijuana use, it was relatively simple for employers to enforce a zero tolerance policy in regard to all illegal substances, including pot. However, since the inception of medical marijuana, there appear to be conflicting rights. You may be able to lawfully use marijuana to treat a medical condition. Yet, according to Michigan’s law and courts, employers still have the right to enforce a drug-free work zone and let you go for marijuana use. Despite this harsh stance, you may be able to fight for an accommodation and keep your job if you use marijuana to treat a disability.
Taking a Closer Look at the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act
Section 7(c) of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act states that nothing in the law should be understood to require an employer to accommodate the ingestion of marijuana in any workplace or any employee working while under the influence of the drug. If read closely, this section provides the option for employers to deny accommodations in two scenarios. The first in which you use marijuana on work premises, and the second in which you work while under the influence of the drug. This latter scenario offers employers a significant amount of leeway because they can argue as to what constitutes being under the influence. You may understand it as actually being high on the drug, while your employer may state that any sign of the substance within your system counts as under the influence.
Employer’s Rights Supported in Casias v. Wal-Mart Store, Inc.
In 2009, Michigan Walmart employee Joseph Casias was fired after failing a drug test. Casias used marijuana to treat pain and symptoms associated with sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor. He was properly registered as a medical marijuana patient and in his 5-year tenure at the store, had never had a workplace incident due to this treatment.
Casias stated he used his other prescription pain medications while at work. Upon losing his job, Casias filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. The federal courts sided with Walmart, determining the state’s marijuana law does not regulate private employment. Walmart had the right to fire Casias for failing the drug test due to marijuana.
Michigan May Strengthen Worker Rights
In December 2015, Rep. Sam Singh sponsored House Bill 5161, which would require medical marijuana to be treated the same as pharmaceutical medications and employers to prove the substance negatively affected your performance before letting you go. Were the bill to be made into law, it would offer significant protections for workers who need medical marijuana to effectively treat their conditions.
You Have a Right to Unemployment Insurance
While Michigan law and the court decisions might appear to favor employers, you have not lost all of your rights as a worker with a medical condition. After being let go because of your medical marijuana use, you have the right to obtain unemployment benefits. If your employer attempts to deny you your benefits upon firing you for a failed drug test, contact DeBruin Law immediately.
Let a Lansing Medical Marijuana Lawyer Fight For Your Job
Despite Section 7(c) and Casias v. Wal-Mart allowing employers to deny accommodations, the law does not prohibit accommodations for medical marijuana use. If you use marijuana outside of work and do not complete your tasks while under the influence of the drug, you may be able to negotiate with your employer to retain your job while you effectively treat your condition.
To fight for an accommodation, you will need the help of an experienced Lansing medical marijuana attorney from DeBruin Law. Our legal team will help strengthen your stance with your employer, including demonstrating that your medical marijuana should be treated like other prescription medications and does not affect your ability to complete your tasks and maintain a safe workplace.
For more information on how we can help, call DeBruin Law at 517-324-4303 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.