Connecticut has become the most recent state to allow the use of marijuana to treat certain debilitating medical conditions, joining 16 other states and the District of Columbia. The new law will take effect on October 1, 2012, and will have implications not only for patients and doctors, but also for employers.
The new law prohibits an employer, defined as “a person engaged in business who has one or more employees, including the state and any political subdivision of the state,” from refusing to hire or discharging, penalizing or threatening an employee on the basis of his status as a “qualifying patient” or “primary caregiver.” Any employee will be a qualifying patient if he is over the age of eighteen, a resident of Connecticut, and has a qualifying medical condition. An employee will qualify as a primary caregiver under the statute if he is over the age of eighteen, agrees to undertake the responsibility of managing the well-being of the qualifying patient, and the doctor documents the need for such a person.
It is important to note that the statute does not restrict an employer’s right to prohibit employees from using intoxicating substances during work hours. Employers are entitled to discipline employees who use or are under the influence of intoxicating substances during work hours in violation of such a policy.
The statute is silent as to whether an employee has a private right of action against his employer for discrimination based on the palliative use of marijuana. Regardless, however, employees suffering from a debilitating medical condition may be protected under another state or federal law.
Employers may want to review their employment policies and handbooks to ensure that they comply with the recent change in the law. For any questions about the impact of the new law on your company, or about whether your policies are in compliance with the new law, feel free to contact any of the attorneys at Skoler Abbott.