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Employee discharged for medical marijuana

Medical marijuana users are not protected by Oregon disability law. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that discharging an employee for medically authorized marijuana use is not a form of disability discrimination.            

Since 1992, the employee experienced anxiety, panic attacks, nausea, vomiting, and severe stomach cramps. He tried many prescription drugs, but none of them cured his symptoms. In 2002, the employee was issued a medical marijuana license from his physician. In 2003, Emerald Steel hired employee on a temporary basis. The employee’s work was satisfactory, and Emerald told him that it would like to permanently hire him. In anticipation of Emerald’s drug test, the employee told Emerald about his medical marijuana use. One week later, Emerald discharged him because of current use of illegal drugs.            

In response, the employee filed a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries, (BOLI). As part of the BOLI process, an Administrative Law Judge ruled against Emerald because it failed to engage in the interactive process with the employee prior to his termination. But Emerald appealed the decision because it believed that the employee’s illegal drug use disqualified him from the protections of Oregon’s disability law.              

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that Emerald did not violate Oregon law when it failed to engage in the interactive process because medical marijuana users are not entitled to the protections under Oregon disability law. Generally, Oregon disability law prohibits discharging employees for previous illegal drug use or participation in a drug rehabilitation program. But, Oregon disability law permits the discharge an employee for current “illegal use of drugs.” “Illegal use of drugs” includes any drug prohibited by either state or federal law. Even though Oregon law authorizes marijuana for medical purposes, the federal law does not. Thus, medical marijuana users are not protected by Oregon disability laws because medical marijuana falls within the definition of “illegal use of drugs.”  

Emerald Steel Fabricators, Inc v Bureau of Labor and Industries, 348 Or 159 (2010).

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