The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico recently dismissed a lawsuit filed by an employee who was fired after testing positive for marijuana despite using medical marijuana as permitted by New Mexico state law. In finding that the employer did not violate New Mexico law or public policy, the court’s decision mirrors the holdings in similar cases from California, Colorado, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, and Washington holding that employers have no duty to accommodate medical marijuana use by employees.
In the New Mexico case, the employee applied for a position with Tractor Supply Company and disclosed his HIV/AIDS diagnosis during the interview process. The employee further disclosed that he participated in the New Mexico Cannabis Program, authorized by the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. After the employee was hired for the position, the employee underwent a drug test and tested positive for cannabis metabolites. Tractor Supply Company terminated the employee on the basis of the positive drug test.
Employers—including those in health care—who wish to continue their zero tolerance policy for marijuana use likely are legally insulated in states with statutes that do not expressly require accommodation of medical marijuana use. However, whether such policies are permissible in states such as Nevada and New York, which have state laws expressly requiring the accommodation of medical marijuana use, is less clear. Thus, employers should continue to monitor for developments in this area of the law.
The New Mexico case is Garcia v. Tractor Supply Company (PDF), No. 15-CV-00735 (D.N.M. Jan. 7, 2016).