You are a medical marijuana patient in Nevada. Your employer requests a drug test. Your first thought: Do I have to tell my employer about my patient status? And more importantly, can my employer fire me for using medical marijuana?
Do I have to inform my employer?
In Nevada, a patient is not required to inform their employer about their patient status. That information is confidential. However, if a patient wants to tell an employer, the patient can consult with an attorney to decide the most favorable way to do so.
Can my employer fire me for using medical marijuana?
Nevada is one of the few states that attempt to minimize discrimination against medical marijuana patients. However, the law is still a little unclear for patients. A patient should first check the employer’s drug policy.
So what does that mean? Reasonable accommodations are changes that enable an individual to perform their duties, or let an employee enjoy equal benefits and privileges of the position. Some examples of reasonable accommodation include updating facilities, job restructuring, or acquiring new equipment.
The amended statute also has some limitations. An employer can avoid reasonable accommodations if the changes:
• Pose a threat of harm or danger to persons or property or impose an undue hardship on the employer; or
• Prohibit the employee from fulfilling any and all of his or her job responsibilities.
What poses a threat of harm or danger?
Jobs that require the use of heavy machinery or operation of equipment that can be dangerous if used incorrectly may fall within this category. For example, if an employee has to drive a forklift on the side of a busy highway, the employer may prohibit marijuana use to ensure the safety of both the employee and the public. But keep in mind; since medical marijuana law is still under development, Nevada has yet to define this language.The courts will likely play a role in narrowing down the specifics.
What prohibits an employee from fulfilling a job responsibility?
Lastly, an employer does not have to make reasonable accommodations if the changes would prohibit the employee from fulfilling any and all of his or her job responsibilities. Nevada does not define this language, so the application is a little unclear. But it can be inferred that a bus driver, who cannot drive while under the influence of marijuana, cannot fulfill his job responsibility and the employer is not forced to accommodate. As with the other exceptions, the details will probably be determined by future legislation and Nevada’s courts.
Are there any other exceptions or limitations?
There may be other special circumstances that restrict the use of medical marijuana for certain jobs. Since marijuana is still federally illegal, federal government jobs can still be terminated based on marijuana usage. Additionally, jobs that involve public safety or transportation may have heightened restrictions.
Lastly, if a patient requires frequent use of medical marijuana, employers can still have restrictions on being under the influence during work hours or using on business property.
As always, the law will evolve as the industry grows. It is important to remember that Nevada is an “at-will” employment state which allows employees to be terminated without cause at any time. Therefore, it is difficult to tell an employee if they will be protected. Upcoming legislation and the court system will likely play a huge role in the future of patients’ rights and medical marijuana.
If you have any questions about medical marijuana law and rights in Nevada, you should contact an attorney familiar with medical marijuana laws.