Wal-Mart 'Sympathetic' to Man Fired for Using Medical Pot, but Won't Rehire Him

foxnews.com/us/2010/03/17/wal-mart-sympathetic-man-fired-medical-marijuana-wont-rehire/

I have to say that Wal-Mart is way wrong on this one!

As far as I am aware–A corporation is free to set the conditions for employment that it sees fit, and is under no obligation to continue to employ someone who has failed a routine drug screening–whatever the circumstances.

I am sure that this man signed some document at some point agreeing to drug screening, and that he was well aware of the possible outcomes if he were to fail a drug test. If he knew this was going to be a problem, he shouldn’t have signed that part of his employment contract. :shrug:

Why? Marijuana causes mental problems over the short and long term, ranging from memory and logical processing issues to perception and coordination issues. (source)

So does morphine. That’s why we don’t allow people to just take morphine, but we also recognize it as a legitimate painkiller when its legally prescribed.

From the article:
A Walmart employee with **sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor **who was fired for using medical marijuana will not be rehired, even though the company says it is “sympathetic” to his condition.

Given Wal-Mart’s history, my guess would be that they are trying to get out of having to pay for this guy’s medical care if he is covered by insurance. I don’t know how you can get away with firing someone for using a prescribed substance. Even if they could prove it caused him to be impaired, I would think they would have to give him an alternate job or put him on medical leave.

The issue is not legality, but ability to preform the tasks of the job (and I have worked with enough chronically high people to be able to vouch that they do appear to have reduced ability to do even menial, repetitive tasks). If amounts of any job impairing substance were detected, there would be reason to place said employee on indefinite leave, at the very least.

Found some interesting information while reading the comments section of FoxNews.

From Michigan’s Department of Community Health.

Question: What should I tell my employer if I am subjected to a drug test?
Answer: The MMMA states that employers are not required to accommodate employees who use medical marihuana. You may wish to consult an attorney about whether or not to tell your employer that you are a patient in the MMMP. A patient may contact the MMMP in writing to ask the program to release information about the patient’s registration to an employer.

Emphasis mine. Sounds like Wal-Mart was well with in their rights to let this man go.

Yep. Even though some states have allowed medical marijuana, the federal government hasn’t. The use of medical use of it is in a gray zone of legality.

Ah, but the effectiveness of drug tests depends on detecting traces in a person’s system after they are no longer impaired, particularly with things like marijuana. You can detect marijuana in a person’s system if they use it up to four times a month for about three weeks after the last usage; that’s well after they are no longer impaired. And since he’s on a prescription for this stuff, he’s being dosed out in a way that will reduce his impairment drastically. I mean, I’d fire somebody who I caught doping up on morphine, but I wouldn’t fire somebody who’s getting morphine treatments. Those are two very different situations.

I’ve had friends and family work at wal-mart and unless they were a greeter there’s no way they could really do their job under heavy pain killers.

That, and Walmart has to look out for it’s hiring pool. Marajana is still an illegal substance…and the chances that it could get out of control are huge. There are so many problems with workers showing up drunk as it is. There are many dr’s in states like Vermont ready to perscribe pot so someone could have it becuase they “feel” like it. Don’t give managers something ELSE to worry about.

Certainly any number of prescription drugs could possibly impair function at work, but they wouldn't fire him for using those. But they do for LEGALLY using PRESCRIBED marijuana? It seems crazy to me, even if they were within thier legal rights to do so.

Marijuana has permanent effects, not just the immediate impairment.
If he is on it as a prescribed medication, it is a reasonable assumption that he is taking it regularly enough to have near continual ‘immediate’ impairment levels, particularly while working. (the medicinal properties, like the other impairing properties wear off)

Walmart has relatively few jobs (ie just about only greeters) who could work in an impaired state. Should they have bumped him down to that, probably, but he also should have arranged that when he went on the treatment, rather than waiting to fail a drug test.

It boils down to:

  1. Walmart is at-will-employer, they legally had no obligation to keep him.
  2. Walmart has the right to test for marijuana (even medicinal), and terminate based on the results.
  3. Walmart has ethical (and moral) right to concern about impairment, and the implementation of standard policy.

While I feel sorry for the guy, Walmart was well within their rights (legal, ethical, even moral) to do what they did. They run a business, not a charity.

This is also yet another reason not to work for someone else, particularly a large company where you are just a number.

It is not a reasonable assumption unless his doctor says so. Wal-Mart flew blind; they could have talked his doctors.

Walmart has relatively few jobs (ie just about only greeters) who could work in an impaired state. Should they have bumped him down to that, probably, but he also should have arranged that when he went on the treatment, rather than waiting to fail a drug test.

Perhaps. That’s a mistake that ought not to cost him his job, though.

It boils down to:

  1. Walmart is at-will-employer, they legally had no obligation to keep him.
  2. Walmart has the right to test for marijuana (even medicinal), and terminate based on the results.
  3. Walmart has ethical (and moral) right to concern about impairment, and the implementation of standard policy.

While I feel sorry for the guy, Walmart was well within their rights (legal, ethical, even moral) to do what they did. They run a business, not a charity.

Too bad. Everyone has a moral obligation to treat people right; Wal-Mart didn’t treat him right. “It was legal” holds no water; one ought to do the right thing at all times, and they didn’t do right by a loyal employee.

This is also yet another reason not to work for someone else, particularly a large company where you are just a number.

Somebody has to work for somebody else. Somebody has to be a miner, somebody has to be a factory worker…not everybody has the luxury of picking and choosing their job.

A company, as such, is incapable of moral action (by definition a free, informed choice of an individual). The people tasked with making the decision have little or no say over policy, if they fail to apply it they lose their job, as would the employee in question. (No freedom to chose = no moral action). The policy makers have to make a decision based on the aggregate of employees nationwide, the majority of whom who use pot are (I feel quite safe in assuming) not doing so under a medical marijuana law. (Not to mention there is the issue of whether use of marijuana is moral even if it is legal…)

Treating him “right” (by which, I assume you mean letting him keep his job) could result in injury on the job (obviously not a non-issue as he was ‘caught’ after an injury on the job). Likewise it could result in an injury to a coworker or customer (a major liability issue). The other effects could reduce his efficiency as a worker, thereby causing more work for his fellow employees. None of this is “right” treatment of the others.

Yes, I know, that *is *what we are taught. In fact, I would even agree that we have been systematically crippled in this regard since the adoption in the US of the Prussian school model, modified to produce obedient workers rather than soldiers.
We need to change that (and big government or big labor isn’t the answer either).

“Somebody has to be a miner,” you say. Said miner should own an equal share (not stock, a real share) of the mine and equipment. The workers should own the factory. This goes for intellectual property as well, you create it its yours, not the company’s. No-one, after having reached a certain level of training, should have to work for anyone else, they ought to be working for themselves.

Im sorry, but take it from someone who has been in the Upper Management Team of a Multi-Million Dollar Corporation…I smell one heck of a Lawsuit! This is discrimination because medical prescriptions prescribed by a medically licensed physician are legal, period.

Whether any medication was in the form of a prescribed mental health med or a medically prescribed pain killer or cold/ flu prescribed medication, etc…ALL which will register as a Positive on any drug test…can register as such…however, they are ALL legally prescribed. Medical marijuana is prescribed for chronic pain and or chronic stress, etc., by licensed physicians…this does not mean it is prescribed to be smoked only…it may be eaten in baked goods or even prescribed in pill form, just like any other pain pill…I imagine this case will set precedence and hit Walmart in the pockets anyway. I would advise the Employee seek legal counsel and file a claim with Fair Employment to start the clock, for both back pay and reinstatement.

Hi CDNowak,
The article you linked to in the first quote mentions effects that last up to weeks for chronic users. What are the permanent effects you refer to in the second quote?

Marijuana is specifically not protected in this way here in Michigan.

Actually, medical marijuana is not prescribed by doctors. Under Michigan law, doctors can legally advise/recommend the use of medical marijuana, but they never write prescriptions for it. It’s not like California where there are state-run medical marijuana farms.

And as someone else has posted, under the same Michigan law employers are NOT required to accommodate employees who have chosen medical marijuana treatment. I would hope that there is some recourse for employers when their employees are on other narcotic painkillers as well. You can’t have the backroom stocker at Wal-Mart high on codeine, vicodin, OR pot, and expect them to do their job safely and efficiently.

With all of the liability issues Wal-Mart would face if this employee’s abilities were affected by his marijuana use, it seems that Wal-Mart is well within its rights to fire him.

By firing this man with cancer, Wal-Mart has just about guaranteed he will not be employable or insurable. He will probably end up broke and on SSI. But then that’s par for the course with Wal-Mart and their history of not providing living wages or health insurance. Anything to keep the low low prices and high high profits.

A business entity is not capable of mercy. They are capable of justice (which is what happened). Government, in a welfare state, provides a safety net for the situation where someone becomes unemployable (being regularly impaired by taking of a medication, prescription or otherwise, does render you unemployable in many fields).

Many here seem to expect big capital (or big government, or even big labor) to handle the human issues that can only be addressed effectively at the local and individual level.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.