A New Jersey man is filing a lawsuit against Amazon after he was allegedly fired for his medical marijuana use. The lawsuit against one of the biggest companies in America claims that despite his medical marijuana card, the warehouse worker was fired for failing a drug test.
Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2010, with an expansion of conditions being added last year. While recreational use is illegal in the state, there have been attempts to legalize it in the past couple of years. The lawsuit comes despite the fact that New Jersey citizens can’t be fired for failing a drug test if they are a medical marijuana patient.
What is the Lawsuit About?
The Parlin, New Jersey man, who is only referred to as D.J.C. in the lawsuit, claims that Amazon is violating his civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, by firing him for a medical condition. He has a medical marijuana card for his anxiety and panic disorder, which is one of the newer conditions added to the program.
The man was fired in August 2018 almost immediately after failing the test, even though he tried to show his medical marijuana card multiple times to his bosses as the warehouse. D.J.C. tried to disclose his prescription but says that he was unable to before the drug test and didn’t get a chance until after it was supposedly too late.
The man alleges that he was not able to explain why he failed the test and show his valid identification, while also claiming that beforehand Amazon did not give him the opportunity to disclose any of his prescriptions before the test was completed, which he was told he would have the ability to if the tests came back positive.
He was placed on “temporary leave” after initially being told he was fired when the positive results came back and he showed a human resources worker his medical identification. The HR worker told him he would be paid for some of his time but had to get a physical from a doctor to prove he was fit to work.
However, after the man did, he was still let go from the company for failing to let his bosses know about his medical status. The man is seeking to be reinstated for the actions along with compensatory damages and punitive damages with attorney's fees and costs.
According to the lawsuit, D.J.C. has suffered a "protracted period of unemployment, emotional distress, and has been permanently damaged in his economic potential" as a result of Amazon's decision to fire him. The man worked at Amazon since early 2017, where he was promoted two times during the time he worked there. The suit says that he was not disciplined any time before his firing.
The lawsuit continues to say that the man was “deprived of his salary, benefits, financial security, loss of enjoyment of work, suffered and continues to suffer compensatory and pecuniary damages and losses, emotional distress, anxiety, sleeplessness, humiliation, embarrassment, nervous anguish, mental and emotional upset, and has had his civil rights violated.”
At one point, D.J.C. applied to Whole Foods, where he was denied because of his history with Amazon, which has “blacklisted” him. Walter Dana Venneman, a lawyer representing D.J.C., told the Law Journal that he believes that Amazon's "blanket prohibition" on employees using medical marijuana is "flatly illegal."
The lawsuit recently moved to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey from the Middlesex County Superior Court this month. An April 2019 court ruling said that as long as a worker is not under the influence at work and have a valid medical marijuana license, they cannot be fired for failing a drug test.
Medical Marijuana in New Jersey
New Jersey is one of the 33 states in the country with a medical marijuana program. The state became the 14th at the time in January 2010 after outgoing Governor Jon Corzine signed the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act into law on his last full day in office.
At the time, those with cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, seizure disorder, Lou Gherig’s disease, severe muscle spasms, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and terminal illnesses were allowed as conditions for those seeking a medical marijuana card. In March 2018, more conditions, including anxiety, migraines, Tourette's syndrome, and Chronic pain were added to the list of qualifying diseases for the medical marijuana program.
There are currently over 45,000 patients in the program, with another 2,000 being added every month. There is expected to be over 100,000 patients in 2020.
Recreational Marijuana in New Jersey
There have been numerous attempts over the years to try and get marijuana legalized recreationally. After the medical program was legalized earlier in the decade, a conservative controlled government took effect with then Gov. Chris Christie saying it “is beyond stupidity” and "nothing more than crazy liberals who want to say everything's OK."
He went on to say that he would refuse to sign any legalization efforts into law. In 2018, the Democrats regained control of the house, however, there were more than a dozen competing marijuana legalization laws that were trying to be passed and no consensus.
For the past two years, there have been multiple debates on how exactly the program should roll out, with undecided lawmakers and no clear frontrunner keeping any bill from being close to being passed. After a long fight, it was announced that current Governor Phil Murphy and the legislature had failed to enact any recreational marijuana bills as the talks collapsed and no majority was made.
Despite the failure, New Jersey lawmakers are planning on a 2020 voter referendum to let the voters decide if they want recreational marijuana.