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When Employers Retaliate Against Legal Use of Marijuana

Some states have legalized recreational marijuana use. Other states have legalized marijuana use for medicinal purposes. However, marijuana use is technically illegal everywhere under federal law. So what rights, if any, do employees have if employers retaliate against them for legal marijuana use under state law, which is illegal under federal law?

Generally, federal law trumps state law. This rule of thumb tends to apply to all kinds of laws related to every conceivable kind of situation. However, laws related to employment tend to apply a bit differently. In most situations, employers must follow whatever law is most practically "generous" to employees. Meaning, if state law grants more freedoms or protections to employees, employers are required to follow that law, even if federal law conflicts with the state law.

For example, if an employee or job applicant is subjected to a random or routine drug screening and is disciplined or dismissed from employment or potential employment as a result, this behavior may not be legal. If the state in which the individual is working or seeks to work has legalized medical marijuana use and he or she has a legitimate prescription for marijuana, the employer generally cannot discriminate against the individual as a result of his or her medicinal drug use.

Every employment case is unique. Therefore, it is best not to take either general rules of law for granted or negative employer behavior as the law of the land. If you have questions about the ways in which legal marijuana use has affected your employment, please seek the advice of an experienced attorney.

Source: Business Management Daily, "When Medical Marijuana Laws Conflict With Company Policies"

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