Thursday, August 5, 2010

Employers still making 'difficult' decisions

Posted By on Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 9:11 AM

We've mentioned fired Michigan Wal-Mart Employee of the Year Joseph Casias with a similar frequency as Leonard Shelby recalling Sammy Jenkis in Memento. (Note: This is a shameless excuse to post the below video.) Casias was fired after a post-workplace-related injury urine test came back positive for marijuana; logical, since Casias is an MMJ patient.

His story makes another appearance in this Wall Street Journal article examining the issue of what rights and protections an MMJ patient enjoys under our current system, which is to say, none.

No new ground is broken here, but some interesting notes:

A Wal-Mart spokesman called the case "unfortunate" and the decision to fire Mr. Casias "difficult." But, he said: "As more states allow this treatment, employers are left without any guidelines except the federal standard. In these cases, until further guidance is available, we will always default to what we believe is the safest environment for our associates and customers."

An employee recently approached Josh Ward, an executive at Denver-based Applewood Plumbing, Heating & Electric, with a question he never thought he'd hear.

Her husband, the employee said, is a state-registered medical marijuana patient. Could she buy his marijuana with her company-provided flexible spending account?

"We were like, 'Whoa!'" Mr. Ward said.

Mr. Ward did a bit of research and quickly told the employee no. Her account, funded with pretax dollars, is regulated by the Internal Revenue Service and cannot be used to purchase a drug that's illegal under federal statutes, even if Colorado treats it as a legitimate medication.

The federal government lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug on par with LSD or synthetic heroin. Employers can fire, or refuse to hire, employees for using the drug without running afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act or any other federal anti-discrimination statute, said Christopher Kuczynski, assistant legal counsel with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

And the promised video:


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