Worker’s Compensation Injury Claim – Medical Marijuana Q/A
Q: I take prescribed medical marijuana for a chronic back issue. I recently had an on-the-job injury. My employer has a drug testing policy after any injuries. I was terminated for violating workplace rules regarding use of substances while on the job and my on-the-job Worker’s Compensation injury claim was denied because of the marijuana in my system. Can I fight these decisions?
A: Your question raises complex and important legal issues in workplace safety, discrimination and workers’ compensation laws. I can answer your questions generally but I strongly urge you to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
As you know, Oregon legalized the use of recreational marijuana as of July 2015. Medical marijuana has been legal in Oregon for several years. Many workplace rules, including workers’ compensation laws, have not caught up with these legal changes. Oregon workers’ compensation law allows an employer to deny a claim only if the employer can prove that your injury was caused by consumption of alcoholic beverages or any controlled substance. Your employer has to show that marijuana was the cause of your accident as opposed to other forces. If they can’t, your claim will be covered by workers’ compensation. Many employment rules prohibit the use of certain substances while on the job.
Your marijuana consumption off the job should not affect your employment status. Your employer should not be able to fire you just because you had traces of THC or cannabinoids in your system. You should obtain legal advice and act quickly to protect your rights.