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Medical Marijuana Cardholder Files Employee Discrimination Lawsuit

prescription bottle with a bundle of marijuana joints sticking out

A University of Rhode Island graduate student filed suit against a fabric company, alleging that it discriminated against her because of her status as a medical marijuana user when she was turned down for a job.

Darlington Fabrics Corporation offered Christie Callaghan a paid internship in its dye lab. Shortly after receiving the internship, Callaghan visited a human resources representative to discuss the position in more detail.

During the meeting, Callaghan disclosed that she suffered from debilitating migraines and was a medical marijuana card holder under the state statute.

According to the complaint, Callaghan reassured the employer that she would not bring marijuana to work nor would she use marijuana prior to coming to work.

Following this meeting, Callaghan received a phone call from the same representative and another employee stating the company could not employ her because of her status as a medical marijuana patient.

In her complaint, the graduate student is requesting the court to declare the company's actions were unlawful and violated her civil rights, as well as the Hawkins Smith Medical Marijuana Act.

MJ anti-discrimination statute

Rhode Island is one of the few states that addresses employee rights as medical marijuana users. The state  law prohibits employers from discriminating against medical marijuana cardholders.

Specifically it states, “a school, employer, or landlord may not refuse to enroll, employ, or lease or otherwise penalize a person solely for his or her status as a cardholder”

Callaghan’s suit will be the first to address the anti-discrimination provision of Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law.  The employer may challenge the law by attempting to provide an alternative reason for revoking Callaghan’s internship.

The employer may argue a potential violation of the company drug policies or the risk of workplace misconduct.

All events prior to the disclosure  pointed to Callaghan receiving the internship without any issues.

Unlike states such as California and Connecticut, Rhode Island's medical marijuana law does not expressly state whether an employer is or is not required to accommodate medical marijuana use.

Procon.Org states as of October 2014, there were 9,298 legal medical marijuana patients in the State of Rhode Island.

Employers in  Rhode Island and other states with similar laws will watch the outcome of this case closely. As marijuana law reform continues, employers will continue to face concerns with how the changes will affect federal laws and workplace safety.

This case is Callaghan v. Darlington Fabrics Corporation, filed in the Superior Court of Rhode Island.

Callaghan is represented by Carly Beauvais Iafrate, ACLU Providence, Rhode Island

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