- Washington State’s Highest Court Strikes Down Wrongful Termination Claim Based on Medical Marijuana Law
- June 20, 2011
- Law Firm: Keesal Young Logan A Professional Corporation - Long Beach Office
The Washington Supreme Court held on Thursday that an employee’s termination for the authorized use of marijuana under Washington’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act (“MUMA”) does not provide a cause of action against an employer for wrongful termination.
The issue before the court in Jane Roe v. TeleTech Customer Care Mgmt. (Colo.), LLC, Case No. 83768-6, was whether MUMA provided a private cause of action for discharge in violation of public policy. TeleTech offered the plaintiff a position as a customer service representative that was contingent upon her passing a drug screening test. TeleTech provided plaintiff with their drug policy, which did not have an exception for state authorized medical marijuana use. Plaintiff took the test and began working, but when her test results came back positive for marijuana use a week later, she was terminated.
Plaintiff brought suit alleging that she was terminated in violation of MUMA and in violation of the public policy set out in MUMA. The court disagreed on both counts. First, it held that MUMA’s language was unambiguous and did not provide for any civil cause of action against an employer. Second, the court held that the statute did not create a clear public policy protecting an individual’s choice to use medical marijuana. Its sole purpose was to provide an affirmative defense to criminal charges. Therefore, MUMA could not be the basis for a tort claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy.
The court’s ruling in TeleTech affirms that an employer’s drug policy in Washington state does not need to include exceptions to accommodate marijuana use that is otherwise authorized by MUMA.