A panel of three judges at the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that employers in the state have the right to fire an at-will employee or refuse to hire an applicant who uses medical cannabis. According to the ruling, the 2008 Medical Marihuana Act does not prevent employers from imposing a zero-tolerance rule at work.
An at-will employee is a worker who is employed under a contractual agreement, wherein he or she can be terminated without cause as long as the reason is not illegal.
The Michigan Court of Appeals’ ruling pertains to a case involving medical cannabis cardholder Angele Eplee, who claimed that a job offer she had received was withdrawn after testing positive for cannabis. Eplee filed the lawsuit against the Lansing Board of Water and Light. The company’s offer had been conditional and based on Eplee’s compliance with their drug policies.
However, the company had failed to inform Eplee via mail of the reason why they rescinded their job offer in 2017. The company’s lawyer only notified Eplee’s legal representative later that the job offer was off the table. The company’s lawyer denied that the withdrawal of the offer was because of the results of Eplee’s drug test or because of her status as a registered patient under the state’s medical cannabis program. Instead, the company only cited certain “needs of the department” as the reason.
The recent ruling stated that while the 2008 Michigan Medical Marihuana Act protects registered cardholders from arrest, prosecution, or penalty, it does not go so far as to create affirmative rights for them.
The appeals court ruled that Eplee was not protected by the Marihuana Act because the harm she suffered was losing an employment opportunity in which she held no absolute property interest or right.
According to Brandon Gardner, Eplee’s lawyer, the court’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent. He said that that the decision is disappointing for the state’s public workforce, particularly for those who believe that the Medical Marihuana Act afforded them a certain type of protection.
The use of medical cannabis was legalized in Michigan in 2008, establishing a medical cannabis program that is for serious and terminally ill patients.