Oregon Employers are Not Required to Accommodate Medical Marijuana Use

Previous articles in the Fine Print have addressed the intersection of Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Act and the obligations on employers to accommodate persons with disabilities. For various procedural reasons, none of the previous cases before the Oregon Court of Appeals or Supreme Court addressed the specific issue of an employer’s obligation to accommodate an employee’s use of medical marijuana.

In this most recent case, the Supreme Court considered the case of an employee with a medical marijuana card, who was terminated by Emerald Steel Fabricators, where the employee worked as a temporary drill press operator. The employee had applied for a permanent position, and would have had to pass a drug test in order to be hired. He informed his supervisor that he had a “medical marijuana card” and used the marijuana to treat a debilitating medical condition. Understandably, Emerald Steel was not willing to make an exception for this employee in a safety-sensitive position, and terminated the employee rather than bringing him on full time.

The employee filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (“BOLI”) alleging that Emerald Steel has discriminated against him on account of his disability. Oregon law, much like the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, makes it an unlawful employment practice to discriminate against a qualified employee with a disability.

In April of this year, the Oregon Supreme Court, in a lengthy opinion, cleared up the issue. In a 5-2 ruling, the Court ruled that Oregon law does not require employers to accommodate an employee’s use of marijuana, even when that employee has a valid medical marijuana card.

Timothy J. Resch is a civil litigator with an impressive local and international history, helping employers and small businesses find success in federal and state court litigation matters. Contact Tim directly at TResch@SamuelsLaw.com.