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Ross v. RagingWire Telecommunications, Inc.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff was offered a job by Defendant, which required Plaintiff to take a drug test. Plaintiff tested positive for marijuana because Plaintiff uses marijuana to alleviate his medical condition, as recommended by a physician. Nonetheless, Defendant refused to hire him and proved Plaintiff with accommodations.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    An employer is not required to accommodate an employee for using an illegal substance, marijuana, even if the individual has a valid recommendation by a physician.

    Facts.

    Gary Ross, Plaintiff, a previous member of the United States Air Force, suffers from strain and muscle spasms in his back.  Plaintiff is a qualified individual under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Plaintiff began to use marijuana, based on his physician’s recommendation, pursuant to the Compassionate Use Act (CUA). Defendant, RagingWire Telecommunications, Inc., offered Plaintiff a job. Defendant required Plaintiff to take a drug test, and allowed him to begin working even though his test had not been received yet. A couple days later, Defendant told Plaintiff that his drug test came back positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical found in marijuana. Plaintiff gave Defendant a copy of his physician’s recommendation and told Defendant that he used marijuana for medical purposes. Plaintiff was subsequently fired because of his marijuana use. Plaintiff’s use of marijuana does not impair him to do his job. Based on the following facts, Plaintiff brought suit on the grounds that Defendant violated the FEHA by firing him and failing to make reasonable accommodations for his disability. The trial court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint, and Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s dismissal.

    Issue.

    Whether the trial court properly dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint for Defendant’s failure to hire Plaintiff and provide Plaintiff reasonable accommodations to his medical marijuana use.

    Held.

    Yes, the trial court properly dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint for Defendant’s failure to hire Plaintiff and provide Plaintiff reasonable accommodations to his medical marijuana use.

    Dissent.

    The majority’s ruling leaves Californian’s with serious medical conditions that use medical marijuana in a horrible situation. Those individual may either continue to enjoy the benefits that the medical marijuana is doing for their injury or obtain employment. The majority’s opinion that a requests for an accommodation involving an off duty conduct, using medical marijuana, is an undue hardship, is not supported by FEHA or California common law.

    Discussion.

    Under the FEHA, it is unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire or employ a person based on the person’s physical disability or medical condition. Further, an employer may discharge or refuse to hire a person based on the medical condition or physical disability if the person “is unable to perform his or her essential duties with reasonable accommodations.†Plaintiff claims that because Defendant denied his employment without making any reasonable accommodations, Defendant violated FEHA. However, FEHA does not required employers to make accommodations for the use of illegal drugs. Additionally, in Loder v. City of Glendale, the court held that a employer may reused to hire or deny employment to a person who test positive for an illegal drug. 927 P. 2d 1200 (Cal. 1997). The CUA, which Plaintiff relies upon, does not eliminate the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and the CUA does not require that employers make accommodations to individuals using medical marijuana. Therefore, the trial court properly dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint.


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