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Medical Marijuana and Workers' Compensation Updates: Special Employment Law Edition

Kaufman Workers' Compensation Law Jan. 7, 2020

Two cases in Pennsylvania will test the limits of our Medical Marijuana Law's anti-discrimination provision. The provision states that employers may not refuse to hire an employee or discharge an employee because of their status as a registered medical marijuana patient.

In Pittsburgh, medical marijuana cardholder Derek Gsell's suit contends that the anti-discrimination provisions were violated when a job offer he received from Universal Electric Corporation was rescinded after he tested positive for THC. The job was primarily an office/desk job. This is an important caveat, as employers are not required to hire medical marijuana users for jobs involving public safety or that are high risk like bus drivers or hazardous material operators.

Also, in a case out of Scranton, medical assistant Pamela Palmiter was fired for her use of medical marijuana when her employer was acquired by Commonwealth Health of Tennessee. A federal judge has permitted her lawsuit to move forward and concluded that the anti-discrimination provisions of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana law create an implicit cause of action, even though that right to sue is not explicitly stated in the law. The Judge reasoned that, without the right to sue, these provisions would be meaningless. This was a disappointment for the employer who had argued federal law prevented such an action from going forward.

Both of these cases will be followed closely by this office given the federal law supremacy issues at stake which mirror those in workers' comp reimbursement cases.

My Latest Presentations:

Thank you to the PA Self-Insurers Association for the opportunity to speak on medical marijuana and workers' compensation claims alongside Ted Carpenter, Esquire. The presentation was part of their fall conference held in Harrisburg on October 29, 2019.

I will also be speaking this spring at a conference for the Pennsylvania Defense Institute as part of a panel on medical marijuana and employment issues.

Claimant's attorneys should not feel left out. This Thursday, December 12th, I will be traveling to Wilkes-Barre to speak on medical marijuana and workers' compensation payment for NEPATLA (Northeast PA Trial Lawyers Association). This will be part of their Personal Injury Potpourri Seminar.

A Special Thank You

A special thanks to Greising Law partners Angie Lorenz, Esq, and Pam Harper, Esquire for inviting me to accompany them to the Judicial Independence Benefit event presented by Pennsylvanian's for Modern Courts. This was held at the stunning Philadelphia Masonic Temple. This organization works hard to create awareness of the need for a fair judiciary not influenced by special interests and political agendas.