Arizona Judge Says Walmart Unfairly Fired Worker for Using Marijuana

In a major ruling that will affect the rights of workers who use cannabis, an Arizona judge ruled Walmart illegally fired an employee for using medical marijuana.

In 2016 Carol Whitmire was fired from her job at an Arizona Walmart after a drug test she took came back positive for marijuana. Initially Whitmire was only suspended for the drug test, but a few weeks after her suspension she was fired for it. 

However, U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg ruled Walmart was not justified in firing Whitmire because she was a licensed medical marijuana user in Arizona. Under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, workers cannot be fired for a positive drug test for marijuana. The employer must prove that the worker was high on the job in order to justify firing a registered medical marijuana patient for using cannabis. Walmart could not prove that Whitmire was high at work.

Whitmire also sued Walmart for violating the Arizona Civil Rights Act and the state's laws related to employee protections. But Teiborg dismissed those complaints, and only accepted the argument related to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

There is some conflicting law in Arizona about whether an employer can sue someone for using marijuana. While the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act says that registered patients cannot be fired or denied employment solely from a positive test, Arizona's Drug Testing of Employees Act also allows employers to fire workers for a positive drug test if they have previously informed an employee about their policy.

The court will make a decision at a later date about how much damages Whitmire is owed.

(h/t Phoenix New Times)


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