Legal

Can Employers Rely on Federal Ban on Cannabis?

By Daniel Saeedi, Rachel Schaller

Mar. 22, 2018

The Trump administration’s renewed directive to prosecute “marijuana activities” calls into question a recent decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Court finding employers may not rely on the federal prohibition when determining the qualifications of an applicant.

In Barbuto v. Advantage Sales & Mktg. LLC, an applicant claimed she was discriminated against on the basis of her disability, Crohn’s disease, after she was disqualified from hiring consideration for testing positive for cannabis.

The employer ignored the applicant’s explanation that she took cannabis per her doctor’s written certification, stating “we follow federal law, not state law.” The employer filed a motion to dismiss the disability discrimination claim on the basis that medical cannabis use is a federal crime and, thus, the request to deviate from the employer’s anti-drug policy as an accommodation was “facially unreasonable.”

The court disagreed, holding instead that the employer had “a duty to engage in an interactive process with the employee” to consider alternative medicines or other accommodations that would allow the employee to perform her job, and that medicinal cannabis is not “per se unreasonable as an accommodation” simply because it is a violation of federal law.

IMPACT: Even with the Trump administration’s new orientation, employers should engage in the interactive process with an applicant or employee who tests positive for cannabis if an alleged disability is at issue.

Rachel L. Schaller and Daniel Saeedi are attorneys at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

About Workforce.com

blog workforce

We build robust scheduling & attendance software for businesses with 500+ frontline workers. With custom BI reporting and demand-driven scheduling, we help our customers reduce labor spend and increase profitability across their business. It's as simple as that.

Book a call
See the software

Related Articles

workforce blog

Compliance

Minimum Wage by State in 2022 – All You Need to Know

Summary The federal minimum wage rate is $7.25, but the rate is higher in 30 states, along with Washing...

federal law, minimum wage, pay rates, state law, wage law compliance

workforce blog

Legal

California’s push for a 32-hour workweek explained, and how to prepare

Summary: California is considering a 32-hour workweek bill for businesses with over 500 staff 4 day wee...

32 hour workweek, 4 day workweek, california, legislature, overtime

workforce blog

Legal

A business owner’s guide to restaurant tipping law

Business owners in the restaurant industry are in a unique position when it comes to employee tips. As ...

restaurants, tip laws, tipping