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Telecommunications Company Faces Disability Discrimination Claims Based on Ex-Employee's Medical Marijuana Use

A former employee of Altice Technical Services USA filed suit alleging he was discriminated against when he was terminated for using medical marijuana to treat a disability.

Following a workplace car accident, Plaintiff Scott Nahama was required to submit to a drug test which returned positive results for THC. Plaintiff was subsequently fired. Plaintiff subsequently filed claims against the employer, arguing that it disregarded Plaintiff's state-issued medical marijuana card when it terminated Plaintiff's employment, thus violating New Jersey disability discrimination laws.

The State of New Jersey allegedly issued a medical marijuana card to Plaintiff after he suffered an adverse reaction to a prescribed pain medication in 2018. According to the compliant, the prescription was issued to treat chronic pain following a neck surgery he underwent to treat an on-the-job injury.

In the complaint, Plaintiff stated that upper-management was aware of his disability, his New Jersey Medical Card and his pain management need for the use of marijuana. He further claimed that Altice's human resources manager did not attempt to engage in a discussion on potential disability accommodations.

Plaintiff was suspended as a result of the positive drug test and was not provided access to his test results or a copy of the company's policy related to working under the influence. During the timeframe between suspension and termination, Plaintiff alleges that Altice's HR representative claimed she had no prior knowledge of the existence of the medical marijuana card, despite having access to the drug test report, which stated that Plaintiff had a medical marijuana card issued by the state.

Prior to these claims being filed by Plaintiff, another former employee of Altice filed suit alleging similar charges. Ariel Davila was also fired by the company when a drug test showed traces of marijuana in his system. Davila used a medical marijuana prescription to treat muscle spasms and nerve pain stemming from scoliosis. Davila sent a letter to Altice explaining his situation and requesting accommodations for his conditions. He further stated that he had never been under the influence while at work and that he only uses the medical marijuana to help him sleep. A few days after the letter was sent, he was terminated for violating the company's drug policy.

Both Nahama and Davila are requesting access to the company's policy on substance use.

This case serves as a reminder that employers are encouraged to review their internal guidelines and protocols on drug testing on a frequent basis to ensure compliance with developing state and local laws. Employers are further encouraged to adequately assess the results of a drug test to ensure resulting actions are conducted in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Posted: July 20, 2020


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