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Fired Michigan man cannot sue employer

According a ruling handed down by a U.S. appeals court, a Michigan man who lost his job at a Wal-Mart after testing positive for cannabis may not sue the company for wrongful discharge. Although the man legally purchased the cannabis with a medical marijuana card, the court found that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act does not affect the rules and regulations of a private business. The ruling was based on the court's interpretation of specific statement in the law.

The MMMA prohibits "a business or occupational or professional licensing board" from firing or disciplining a registered medical marijuana patient for his or her use of cannabis. Agreeing with a decision by a lower court, the appeals court interpreted the law as prohibiting disciplinary action by business licensing boards, not private businesses themselves. The court ruled that the MMMA has no direct bearing on employment.

The plaintiff in the case worked at a Michigan Wal-Mart for about four years before being diagnosed with cancer in 2009. In order to manage pain caused by his ailment, the man acquired a Michigan medical marijuana registry card and began using cannabis for therapeutic use. When suffered an on-the-job knee in 2009, he was ordered to undergo a drug test at the hospital per Wal-Mart's employment policy. Despite showing his supervisor and testing staff his registry card, the Wal-Mart corporate officer ordered his supervisor to terminate his employment for testing positive for cannabis.

The plaintiff also included the manager who fired him as a defendant in the lawsuit, but the court found the manager could not be held liable for any alleged wrongdoing, as he was not directly responsible for the termination and only acted in accordance with instructions received from Wal-Mart's corporate office.

The worker also argued that his termination was ordered in violation to Michigan public policy, but that claim was also rejected by the court. It is unclear whether the plaintiff plans to appeal the ruling again.

Source: Bloomberg BNA, "Medical Marijuana Law Doesn't Protect Fired Wal-Mart Worker, Sixth Circuit Rules," Elliott T. Dube, Sep. 24, 2012

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