Oregon Employers Not Required to Accommodate the Use of Medical Marijuana

April, 2010


On April 14, 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court decided Emerald Steel Fabricators Inc. v. Bureau of Labor and Industries holding that Oregon employers are not required to accommodate the use of medical marijuana.

This case involved a temporary employee seeking regular employment with Emerald Steel Fabricators. Knowing he would have to pass a pre-employment drug screen before becoming a regular employee, he notified his supervisor of his lawful use of medical marijuana under Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act. Shortly thereafter, the employee was terminated and filed a claim with the Bureau of Labor and Industries alleging disability discrimination and failure to provide a reasonable accommodation. Emerald Steel argued that it was not required to accommodate because the employee's marijuana use was illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

The Oregon Supreme Court agreed with the company and held that the use of medical marijuana is preempted by Controlled Substances Act pertaining to the use of illegal drugs. It does not preempt the "possession, manufacture, or distribution of medical marijuana..." Accordingly, the employee's use of medical marijuana was considered illegal under federal law. Emerald Steel Fabricators lawfully discharged him for his illegal conduct and did not have an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation under state disability laws.

This case finally clears the muddy waters for Oregon employers struggling with this issue. Even if an employee or applicant provides a medical marijuana card, no accommodation for use is required. Employers may treat such use the same as use of any other illegal drug in accordance with company policy. Employers may also choose to continue providing reasonable accommodation.

Now is a great time to review and update your drug and alcohol policy to make sure it reflects your actual practices. Contact Cascade with questions regarding the Emerald Steel decision and its implications, or to request a sample drug and alcohol policy.

 

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