Pennsylvania recently joined Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island in allowing claims by an employee or applicant who uses medical marijuana to proceed against an employer.  In Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems, the plaintiff had used medical marijuana for chronic pain and migraines.  She applied for a position as a certified medical assistant position with the defendant. Prior to taking the required drug test, she informed the defendant that she was a medical marijuana user.  When the test came back positive for marijuana, the company told her it would not employ her.  She then brought suit alleging violations of the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act (“MMA”) and public policy.

The court held that there is an implied right of action under the MMA, the plaintiff is a member of the class of people the MMA is intended to protect, there is an implicit indication of legislative intent to establish a private remedy, and it is consistent with the underlying purpose of the MMA to imply a private cause of action. Under this ruling, the court reasoned that a person could bring a private right of action for wrongful termination under the MMA or, alternatively, in violation of public policy.

Click here to read the case in its entirety.

Pennsylvania employers, as well as employers across the country, should be cautious when it comes to drafting policies and implementing procedures that restrict an applicant’s or employee’s use of medical marijuana.  States continue to enact medical marijuana statutes, and cases, like Palmiter, continue to challenge an employer’s rights and responsibilities under those statutes.  We expect this trend to continue, as discussed in Number 6 of Hire Image’s Top 10 Background Screening Predictions for 2020.

Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about your own drug screening policies.

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