Washington Employers Claim Victory In Medical Marijuana Battle


On June 9, 2011, the Washington Supreme Court handed employers a comprehensive victory in the long-running medical marijuana battle, deciding that employers need not accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana, and that employees terminated for medical marijuana use – even offsite use – have no basis to sue their employers. Roe v. TeleTech Customer Care Mgmt.

The decision now means that employers can rest comfortably knowing they can consistently enforce their zero tolerance drug policies without regard to medical marijuana registry status.

A Long, Strange Trip – The Facts

Jane Roe – a fictitious name used by a woman who was fearful of prosecution given that marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law – received approval to use medical marijuana under Washington State’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MUMA) in June 2006. She had been suffering from what she described as “debilitating migraine headaches” for years, causing chronic pain, nausea, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. Roe tried conventional medications and treatment to no significant benefit; meanwhile, she had also been using cannibas no fewer than four times per pay to help mitigate her symptoms well before she received the state registry card. Once she obtained authorization, she began using medical marijuana and reported no pain and no side effects. Roe’s condition improved to the point where she decided to seek work.

On October 3, 2006, she was offered a job as a customer service representative at TeleTech’s Bremerton call center, where she was to provide telemarketing and telesales services. The offer was contingent on several background checks, including a drug screen. Roe informed TeleTech that she used medical marijuana at home, and thus it was not surprising when her drug test was returned as positive for marijuana. Although Roe had been working at the company for about a week before the test results came back, she was immediately terminated for violating TeleTech’s zero tolerance drug policy.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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