The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart, on behalf of Joseph Casias, the 30-year-old former 2008 Associate of the Year who was wrongfully fired by a Michigan Wal-Mart for his legal use of medical marijuana.
A Michigan Federal Judge began hearing arguments today in the lawsuit.
The patient, Casias, a legal user of the herb, says he was wrongfully terminated by a Battle Creek Wal-Mart because he tested positive for marijuana during a drug screen and the ACLU agrees with him.
The ACLU attorneys will ask the court today to deny a motion filed by Wal-Mart seeking dismissal of the case and reject the company's attempts to have the case tried in federal court instead of state court, according to Mlive.com. The case was originally filed in Calhoun County Circuit Court in June.
Both Walmart and Casias agree that he had never used marijuana on the job or came to work under the influence of drugs and there have been no allegations made of working while impaired.
Casias, who is married and the father of two children, suffers from an inoperable brain tumor and sinus cancer that is now in remission. His outrageous firing last year for using a state-legal, doctor-approved medicine to ease his pain garnered widespread media coverage and led Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and others to call for a national boycott of Wal-Mart.
In a blog news release, the ACLU reported:
“Joseph is exactly the kind of person whom Michigan voters had in mind when they passed the state’s medical marijuana law,” said Daniel W. Grow, a St. Joseph, Michigan-based attorney. “Medical marijuana is legal in this state because voters recognized its ability to alleviate the pain, nausea and other symptoms associated with debilitating medical conditions, and no corporation doing business in Michigan should be permitted to flout state law.”
The ACLU is suing Wal-Mart on Casias’ behalf because "No employer should be allowed to intrude upon private medical decisions made by employees in consultation with their personal doctor. No one should have to choose between pain relief and gainful employment. And no corporation — not even Wal-Mart — should be allowed to flout state law," said Scott Michelman, staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project.
The ACLU added, "No employer should ever have to tolerate on-duty drug use or intoxication, but employees who legally use medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of painful and debilitating diseases should not be fired for doing so," according to a post on organization's updated blog.
In an e-mail from headquarters, WalMart spokesman Greg Rossiter explained the company policy to WZZM13. It states: "In states, such as Michigan, where prescriptions for marijuana can be obtained, an employer can still enforce a policy that requires termination of employment following a positive drug screen. We believe our policy complies with the law and we support decisions based on the policy."
Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act became law in 2008, it protects patients registered with the state of Michigan from “arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner” for the use of medicinal marijuana as prescribed by a doctor and also protects employees from being disciplined for their use of medical marijuana in accordance with the law. The law does not require employers to accommodate the ingestion of marijuana in the workplace and does not protect employees who work under the influence of the drug.
To make matters worse, Wal-Mart challenged Casias’ eligibility for unemployment. "Simply outrageous," says Casias. "This is the thanks I get for showing up to work and doing my job for the last five years, despite being stricken with a potentially life-threatening illness. I gave them everything,” Casias told a local news outlet. “One-hundred-ten percent every day. Anything they asked me to do I did. More than they asked me to do. Twelve to 14 hours a day, ” reports MPP.