Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana over half a decade ago. While recreational use is still illegal, medical uses are broad despite strict rules about when and where to use your approved marijuana.
Unless your employer provides specific protections for your medical use of marijuana, they can terminate you for using it at work. Pennsylvania employees are considered “at-will” employees. Businesses have broad discretion to terminate employees. If you have been terminated for using medicinal marijuana at work, you may have legal options to protect your rights.
Do I Have to Tell My Employer I Use Medical Marijuana?
While employers are usually prohibited from asking employees about medical conditions, there is no restriction on the type of medication used. As long as your employer is not asking you why you use medical marijuana, they can directly ask you if you use medical marijuana. You should not lie if you are confronted, but you do not need to willingly admit you use medical marijuana, especially if you do not use it at work.
Can I Use Medical Marijuana at Work?
If you have a qualifying medical condition and you have been approved for a medical marijuana card, you are eligible to buy and use medical marijuana. Pennsylvania law does not mandate that employers accommodate the use of medical marijuana at work.
It is legal for employers in Pennsylvania to discipline employees who use medical marijuana at work or whose work is negatively affected by their use of medical marijuana. Despite accommodation requirements under federal law for people with a medical condition, mandates under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) do not apply because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.
Can My Employer Fire Me for Using Medical Marijuana?
Pennsylvania law prohibits employers from firing you, refusing to hire you, or retaliating against you because you are a medical marijuana user. Your employer can choose to end your employment based on performance issues, even if they are related to your medical marijuana use.
What Types of Jobs Prohibit Medical Marijuana Use Outside of Work?
Some jobs are inherently dangerous and require constant attention. Companies may expressly prohibit medical marijuana use even outside of work for many reasons. These companies often conduct random drug tests, and if an employee fails the test, they are disciplined immediately and possibly terminated.
If you are tested and your THC levels are above a certain threshold, you will likely face discipline from your employer, even if you only use marijuana at home. Pennsylvania law lists some types of jobs where you are prohibited from employment if you have 10 nanograms or more of THC in your system:
- High-voltage electrical work.
- Working with toxic chemicals.
- Working for a public utility company.
- Working at heights.
- Working in a confined space.
- Life-threatening work.
- Public safety work.
Can My Employer Drug Test Me if I Have a Medical Marijuana Card?
Pennsylvania allows employers to drug test employees as long as the testing is not discriminatory and is reasonable to the employer’s business. For example, if you are a truck driver, your employer may reasonably test you for marijuana before any trip.
If an employer is trying to “catch” you or is not testing everyone but just people they suspect of using medical marijuana, that may not be protected under Pennsylvania law.
What Should I Do if I Get Fired for Medical Marijuana Use?
While Pennsylvania law currently provides little protection to medical marijuana users at work, that does not mean your employer acted lawfully. If you have received high marks on performance reviews and other feedback and then, seemingly out of nowhere, your employer learns that you hold a medical marijuana card and are now facing termination, you may have legal options.
Employers are generally allowed to terminate employees for almost any reason. If you think your employer has discriminated against you, retaliated against you, or is otherwise discriminating against you because you hold a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania, they may have acted unlawfully, and you may be able to hold them accountable for their actions.
You may choose to file a wrongful termination claim against your employer. If they conducted an unlawful drug test or discriminated against you, you may be able to hold them responsible for your termination. If successful, you may be able to collect compensation from your employer and even have your job reinstated. Be aware that this is not a quick and easy process, and you should have an experienced employment lawyer to help guide you through the complex process. If your employer has violated your rights, you deserve to hold them accountable and seek damages from them.
Recent Pennsylvania case law shows a clear right for employees to be protected when they have a medical marijuana card. While an employer can still prohibit use while working, courts have held that medical marijuana is more closely related to prescription drugs. While the tide has not yet turned, it may be turning in favor of employees. For now, you still need to respect your employer’s policies.
Find an employer who is more medical marijuana-friendly. If you are a Pennsylvania resident with a lawfully obtained and active medical marijuana card, your best option is to find an employer who supports your rights.
Do not forget about your rights if you have been terminated from your current employer. Even if you have found a new job with a medical marijuana-friendly company, you can still take legal action against your previous employer if they discriminated against you or acted illegally. Even though Pennsylvania law leans toward employers’ rights in this matter, you may still be eligible for compensation and other damages if your former employer terminated you because of your medical marijuana use.
Medical marijuana usage intends to help people with ailing medical conditions. It is not to make them unemployed. If your employer has taken adverse action against you, you may have legal options to hold them accountable and seek compensation. An employment lawyer can help you explore those options.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Will Make Sure Your Rights Are Protected if You Have Been Illegally Fired
Even living in a state where medical marijuana is legal, you may still face employment repercussions. If you have been fired for using medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, speak with one of our Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. today. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. With offices in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.