/PA Judge Rules That Healthcare Worker Can Sue Employers for Being Fired Over Pot

PA Judge Rules That Healthcare Worker Can Sue Employers for Being Fired Over Pot

A Court of Common Pleas judge made an initial ruling in favor of MMJ patient and dismissed health care worker Pamela Palmiter, who will now be able to pursue a lawsuit against her former employer.

Under Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law, active patients are allowed to visit any state dispensary to buy up to a 30-day supply of flower, concentrates, cartridges, and other cannabis products. And thanks to a new ruling by a Court of Common Pleas judge in Scranton, PA, patients can now use their MMJ status to pursue wrongful termination lawsuits against aggrieved employers. 

According to the publication Business Insurance, the new precedent was set late last month after Scranton-based healthcare worker Pamela Palmiter was fired by Commonwealth Health Systems. Palmiter, a medical assistant who is prescribed medical cannabis for chronic pain and migraines, said that she was made to submit a drug test after her original employer was taken over by Commonwealth and management changed. Once those administrative adjustments were complete, the new company leaders fired Palmiter, citing the presence of THC in her drug test results. 

Understandably upset, Palmiter hired a lawyer and decided to pursue a wrongful termination suit against Commonwealth. But as a private company, Commonwealth pushed back, challenging Palmiter’s claim that the state’s medical marijuana program protected her from firing. 

But in a first-of-its kind ruling in the Keystone State’s young legal cannabis program, the Court of Common Pleas judge sided with Palmiter, allowing the lawsuit to move forward against her employer. 

“Recognition of an implied right of action (under a section of the act) is consistent with the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act’s stated purpose of providing safe and effective access to medical marijuana for eligible patients, while simultaneously protecting them from adverse employment treatment in furtherance,” the ruling read

The judge also noted that the state’s 2016 MMJ legalization law featured an anti-discrimination clause that “would be rendered meaningless if an aggrieved employee could not pursue a private cause of action and seek to recover compensatory damages from an employer.”

A number of similar medical cannabis bias lawsuits have popped up in legal weed markets across the country, with a number of states and municipalities seeking additional legislation to protect medical marijuana patients from workplace discrimination.

Palmiter will now continue to pursue her case against Commonwealth, but has also effectively opened the door for other Pennsylvania MMJ patients to pursue their own anti-discrimination case against any other employers with a cannabis bias.

“We are extremely pleased,” Palmiter’s attorney, Cynthia Pollack, said. “[The ruling] protects all citizens who are certified medical marijuana users in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” 

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