Michigan Wal-Mart Fires Medical Marijuana-Using Employee, ACLU Files Lawsuit

06/30/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Sandra Quinlan // Sandra Quinlan

Calhoun County, MI—Wal-Mart faces pending litigation with regard to the November 2009 termination of an employee who failed a drug test due to his legal use of medical marijuana. The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), alleged the worker never used marijuana while on-the-job and had justified reasons for using it in the first place, according to a Tuesday, June 29, 2010 CNN report, as well as previous coverage by Justice News Flash.

Joseph Casias was employed by Wal-Mart for five years, beginning as a grocery store stocker and eventually being promoted to inventory control manager. Casias even earned an Associate of the Year Award in 2008. However, Casias suffered a knee injury in 2009.

His on-the-job injury prompted a customary drug test. Casias, who has battled a rare form of cancer (affecting his nasal cavity and brain) for more than 10 years—qualifying him for medical marijuana use—failed the mandatory drug screening. He was subsequently fired.

Casias, who is amongst approximately 10,000 legal medical marijuana users throughout the state of Michigan, contended he gave his all while working for the nation’s largest retailer. “I was angry they did this to me because I always tried my best… I gave them everything, 110 percent every day. Anything they asked me to do I do. More than they asked me to do. 12 to 14 hours a day,” Casias said.

On March 14, 2010, nearly 100 people came together to rally for the former Wal-Mart employee. The ACLU recently took a stance in the controversial debate, filing a lawsuit in Calhoun County Circuit Court.

According to a staff attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, “Medical marijuana has had a life-changing positive effect for Joseph, but Wal-Mart made him pay a stiff and unfair price for his medicine… No patient should be forced to choose between adequate pain relief and gainful employment, and no employer should be allowed to intrude upon private medical choices made by employees in consultation with their doctors.”

The ACLU Web site stated the objective of the Drug Law Reform Project “is to end punitive drug policies that cause the widespread violation of constitutional and human rights, as well as unprecedented levels of incarceration”.

Wal-Mart allegedly stated that while they condole Casias’ condition, they refuse to jeopardize the “safety of its customers and associates”. Given that Michigan is an at-will employment state, employers can fire their employees for practically any reason. Nonetheless, termination based on race, gender or religion, is unlawful.

The case is underway.

Legal News Reporter: Sandra Quinlan- Legal News for Michigan Civil Rights Lawyers.

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