As of July 1, 2019, Virginia residents with valid medical marijuana cards are protected from employment discrimination. This means that employers cannot fire or refuse to hire employees simply because they have a card authorizing them to use medical marijuana. This protection applies to both private and public sector employees.
The new law is the result of House Bill 2051, which was introduced by Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn and passed unanimously in the House of Delegates and Senate. Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill into law on April 11, 2019.
Keep reading to learn more about employment protections for Virginians with MMJ cards.
What are the Employment Protections for People with Virginia Medical Marijuana Cards?
People with Virginia Medical Marijuana cards have some employment protections. Under state law, employers cannot fire or refuse to hire someone because they have a medical marijuana card. Employers can, however, fire or refuse to hire someone if they are impaired at work.
How Do These Protections Work?
People with a valid Virginia medical marijuana card are protected from being fired, refused employment, or discriminated against due to their status as a medical marijuana cardholder. This means that employers cannot refuse to hire someone, fire someone, or discriminate against them in any way simply because they have a medical marijuana card. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Employers can still fire or refuse to hire someone if they can demonstrate that the employee’s use of medical marijuana would cause an impairment in the workplace. Additionally, employers are not required to accommodate the use of medical marijuana in the workplace.
What are the Consequences of Violating These Protections?
The consequences of violating these protections could be criminal or civil penalties. Criminal penalties could include jail time and/or a fine. Civil penalties could include a monetary award to the person who was wrongfully terminated.
What Does This Mean for Employers?
Employers should be aware that they cannot take adverse action against an employee solely because the employee has a medical marijuana card. If an employer does take such action, the employee may have a claim for discrimination. Additionally, employers should not require employees to disclose their status as a cardholder. Doing so could also lead to a discrimination claim.
Can Employers Still Drug-Test Employees?
Yes, employers can still drug test employees for marijuana even if the employee has a valid Virginia medical marijuana card. However, the employer cannot penalize the employee in any way for using medical marijuana outside of work. This includes refusing to hire or firing the employee, refusing to promote the employee, or reducing the employee’s salary.
What Should Employees Do if They Feel They Have Been Wrongfully Terminated?
If you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated, you should contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible. Employment lawyers can help protect your rights and assess the merits of your case. You may be entitled to damages if you can prove that you were fired because of your use of medical marijuana.
How Can Employers Ensure They are in Compliance with the Law?
There are a few key things that employers need to keep in mind in order to ensure compliance with the law. First, employers should review the Virginia Code to understand the specific provisions that apply to them. Second, employers should develop a policy that outlines how they will handle employees who are authorized to use medical marijuana. This policy should include guidelines for drug testing and what actions will be taken if an employee tests positive for marijuana.
Finally, employers should communicate this policy to all employees and ensure that they are familiar with it.