Recent decisions from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and a Rhode Island Superior Court have held that a discharged employee and a rejected applicant, both of whom tested positive for marijuana, may pursue disability discrimination claims under state law. These are among the first decisions issued that address whether employers have a state law obligation to reasonably accommodate the medical marijuana use of their disabled employees and applicants.
Because marijuana use – whether for medicinal or recreational purposes – remains unlawful under federal law, employers have no obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act to reasonably accommodate its use by disabled employees or applicants. But what about in states, including Ohio, where medicinal marijuana use is legal under certain circumstances? Is there an obligation to reasonably accommodate marijuana use under state disability discrimination law? Is an employer that takes an adverse action against an applicant or employee who is a medical marijuana user engaging in disability discrimination in violation of state law? It appears that the answer to these questions, at least in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, is yes. For the reasons discussed below, Ohio may be different. Continue Reading