Earlier this month a judge for the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled a medical marijuana patient can take legal action against her former employer after she was fired for failing a job-related drug test.
Donna Hudnell, a former security analyst for Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Inc., registered with Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis access program while recovering from spinal surgery. She says she notified her company about her cardholder status upon returning to work after her surgery and taking a drug test. After failing the drug test while her medical cannabis card lapsed, she was fired. That was the same day her medical marijuana card was re-certified, according to Judge Gerald J. Pappert.
The company argued that since Hudnell’s card lapsed the day of her test, there was no way of knowing her positive test was a result of her legal use of marijuana within the bounds of state law.
Hudnell, a Black woman, also alleged that a white employee who tested positive for cannabis use without a valid medical marijuana card received better treatment. He was allowed to seek treatment, while she was terminated.
Pappert denied a motion from the company to dismiss Hudnell’s lawsuit. However, under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance, the court says Hudnell will have to wait to refile her disability and racial bias claims. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has to review her claims within a year of her filing them, or fail to review them within the year, before she can bring the issues to court.
Pappert ruled that Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act provides a private cause of action to workers, allowing state-sanctioned, card-carrying workers like Hudnell to sue employers on the basis of alleged discrimination of legal drug use.
Courts in other jurisdictions, such as in Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, have also issued similar rulings backing up employees’ rights to use cannabis while they’re off the clock.