The Massachusetts SJC recently issued a ruling finding that if a medical marijuana user is an individual with a handicap or disability then that individual may assert a claim for handicap discrimination under Massachusetts state law. The court held that an employer must engage in an “interactive process” with a medical marijuana user to determine if the medical marijuana user can continue to perform his or her job duties with a reasonable accommodation to the handicap and that employers may be required to allow employees to use medical marijuana as a reasonable accommodation.
Employers, however, are not required to allow the use of medical marijuana if the use of marijuana would impair the employee’s work performance or pose “unacceptably significant” safety risks to the employee, co-workers or the public. Similarly, an employer may be able to prove undue hardship if the employee’s use of marijuana would violate a contractual or statutory obligation, such as the federal Department of Transportation prohibition against hiring for safety-sensitive positions employees who use marijuana.
Employers are not required to permit on-site marijuana use or impairment. This decision also does not require employers to permit employee use of recreational marijuana, which was recently legalized in Massachusetts.