Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”
A graduate student who was denied a summer internship at a textile company because of her use of medical marijuana has brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against the company.
The attorney who represents the student, Carly Iafrate of the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the legalization of medical marijuana would be “an empty promise” if employers are allowed to discriminate against people based on their status as medical marijuana users.
The ACLU said it believes it is the first lawsuit of its kind brought in the state.
Lawsuits have been brought in other states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana, including New Mexico, Maine, Colorado and New Jersey. The New Mexico, Maine and New Jersey cases are still pending in courts in each of those states.
Last month, a Colorado quadriplegic named Brandon Coats lost an appeal in that state’s Supreme Court. Coats was fired in 2010 after failing a drug test. He said he used medical marijuana to control involuntary muscle spasms. Colorado’s high court ruled that legalizing the use of medical marijuana did not establish a Constitutional right to use the drug.
Rhode Island case
Iafrate, the attorney for University of Rhode Island student Christine Callaghan, told the Associated Press that people with disabilities cannot be denied equal employment opportunities simply because they have been prescribed a certain medication to treat a particular medical condition.
Callaghan was first prescribed marijuana in 2013 to treat frequent, severe migraine headaches. Rhode Island sanctioned medical marijuana in 2006. Patients must be prescribed the drug by a doctor and must obtain an identification card from the state.
Callaghan, who is studying textiles at the University of Rhode Island, said that last summer she became interested in securing an internship at Darlington Fabrics. The internship would have been a paid position, and Callaghan would have received credits toward a Master’s degree.
She said she expected to be offered the position, however during a meeting with the company’s human resources department, Callaghan revealed that she had a medical condition and held a medical marijuana identification card. A few days after the meeting, Callaghan said she received a call from two company employees who said that Darlington could not employ her because of her status as a medical marijuana patient.
In her lawsuit, Callaghan alleged that Darlington violated a state law that protects medical marijuana users from employment discrimination.
In the similar Colorado case, that state’s Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana users were exempt from prosecution for criminal possession of marijuana, but the medical marijuana amendment did not establish pot use as a right.
Other employment-based medical marijuana cases pending in the United States
In New Jersey, a 57-year-old Newark man with end-stage renal failure sued NJ Transit—his employer—earlier this year, for suspending him and ordering him to undergo rehabilitation after he tested positive for marijuana. The man, Charlie Davis, said he uses marijuana to “ease his terrible pain and… lead a normal life,” according to his attorney, Sarah Fern Meil.
New Mexico resident Donna Smith sued her employer, Presbyterian Health Services, earlier this year after she was terminated from her job for failing a drug test. Smith, who uses medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder, said New Mexico’s Human Rights Act protects her from discrimination based on her status as a medical marijuana user.
In Maine, Brittany Thomas sued staffing agency Adecco USA, Inc. after the company refused to rehire her because she tested positive for marijuana. Thomas’ suit is premised upon Maine’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act, which prohibits discrimination of a person solely on the basis of the person’s status as a medical marijuana user.
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone’s negligent or intentional conduct, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up an appointment today. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.
About the Author
Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
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