As has been reported here in the past, more states are now making the use of medical marijuana legal while others are permitting even recreational use.
If you’re an employer – it’s important to know the rules around drug use as it relates to your employees.
Connecticut law explicitly makes it illegal to refuse to hire or fire an employee solely because of the individual’s status as a qualifying medical marijuana patient. It also makes it illegal to refuse to hire or to fire someone for testing positive in a drug screening as a result of their using medical marijuana within the protections of state law.
But is that Connecticut state statute preempted by federal law in any way?
We now have an answer to that important question from one judge in the federal district court in Connecticut.
In Noffsinger v. SSN Niantic Operating Co. LLC, Judge Jeffrey Meyer recently ruled that the federal law known as the “Controlled Substances Act” — which classifies marijuana as unlawful and as a drug that has “no medical value” — does not allow employers in Connecticut to deny employment to any Connecticut employees who receive approval from the state’s Department of Administrative Services to use medical marijuana. The court further determined that this federal law does not permit Connecticut employers to fire such employees with medical marijuana cards solely because they test positive for marijuana during a drug screening. As a result, the court concluded that such employees and job applicants with medical marijuana cards can sue an employer based on a firing or a rescinded job offer if that firing or rescission was based on a positive marijuana test.
At this point, it remains to be seen whether this ruling will be adopted by other judges within the Connecticut federal courts, or whether any appeal of this ruling will be taken. However, employers must now be cautious not to deny employment based solely on any generalized federal law banning marijuana use.
What rights do employers have under Connecticut’s medical marijuana laws?
It’s very important to note that Connecticut employers may fire an employee for using or being under the influence of medical marijuana while on the job. It is also noteworthy that Connecticut employers may still deny employment or terminate any employee if “required by federal law or required to obtain federal funding.” Therefore, if a particular federal law or federal contract specifically requires an employer in Connecticut not to hire otherwise qualifying medical marijuana users, the decision in Noffsinger does not negate any such requirement.
For more on Connecticut employment law as it relates to medical marijuana, please refer to this earlier post.
If you are an employer in Connecticut and need guidance in the areas of labor and employment law as they pertain to drug policies for the workplace, contact the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale. We do one thing and one thing only – we are an employer defense law firm – in fact, we are one of the largest employer defense law firms in the region. What’s more, each of our attorneys have over 20 years of experience in employment and labor law matters and can provide your business with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please call us if we can help you.
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