n Harrisburg Space Neighborhood School v. Pennsylvania Human Relations Fee, No. 654 C.D. 2019, (October 29, 2020), the Commonwealth Courtroom of Pennsylvania not too long ago examined the interplay between Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). Particularly, the court docket addressed whether or not the PHRA’s prohibition towards incapacity discrimination required a school to accommodate a pupil’s lawful use of medical marijuana underneath the MMA. The court docket decided that the PHRA doesn’t require the lodging of medical marijuana use as a result of the PHRA excludes present unlawful drug use, as outlined by federal legislation, from its definition of “handicap or incapacity.” Though the case arose within the larger schooling context, the court docket’s dialogue and holding gives Pennsylvania employers with useful perception and steerage on these sophisticated and evolving points.
Holly Swope suffered from numerous medical circumstances lined by the MMA for which she was lawfully prescribed medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. Swope attended a nursing program at Harrisburg Space Neighborhood School (HACC), which supplied instruction to college students in each classroom and medical settings. HACC maintained a coverage requiring all nursing program candidates to undergo an annual urine drug screening. Pursuant to the coverage, if a candidate examined optimistic for a bootleg substance on the annual drug display screen, she or he could be faraway from the nursing program. Swope claimed that she notified HACC’s director of nursing, Jill Lott, about her medical circumstances and requested permission to make use of medical marijuana as an lodging for her disabilities. Lott allegedly knowledgeable Swope that she was required to adjust to HACC’s drug coverage or she could be faraway from the nursing program. In response, Swope filed a criticism with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Fee (PHRC), alleging violations of the PHRA and the Pennsylvania Truthful Instructional Alternatives Act (PFEOA).
HACC filed a movement to dismiss Swope’s criticism, arguing that neither the PHRA nor the PFEOA required the lodging of medical marijuana, even when such utilization was permitted by the MMA. Certainly, each the PHRA and the PFEOA outline “handicap or incapacity” particularly to exclude “present, unlawful use of or habit to a managed substance, as outlined in part 102 of the [federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA)].” As a result of marijuana stays unlawful underneath federal legislation, HACC contended that Swope couldn’t state a declare underneath both statute. The PHRC denied HACC’s movement to dismiss, arguing that medical marijuana utilization in step with the MMA was not unlawful in Pennsylvania and discovering that Swope’s “‘use of marijuana to mitigate her struggling [made] the current declare viable underneath the [MMA] together with PHRA and PFEOA.’” HACC sought an interlocutory enchantment of the PHRC’s resolution, which was granted.
On enchantment, the Commonwealth Courtroom of Pennsylvania agreed with HACC that the federal definition of “managed substances,” which had been adopted by the PHRA and PFEOA, prevented Swope from establishing a failure-to-accommodate declare underneath both statute. The Pennsylvania Basic Meeting may have amended the PHRA and the PFEOA to take away the references to the federal CSA, however it selected not to take action. The court docket decided that this “failure” to amend the statutes evidenced a legislative intent to ban incapacity discrimination claims underneath the PHRA and PFEOA regarding the utilization of medical marijuana.
Moreover, as a result of the MMA doesn’t deal with postsecondary schooling, the court docket repeatedly seemed to the MMA’s employment discrimination provisions for steerage, stressing that:
the MMA solely prohibits employers from discriminating towards an worker due to his or her standing as a licensed medical marijuana consumer and doesn’t require employers to accommodate the usage of medical marijuana within the office;
employers might “self-discipline an worker for being underneath the affect of medical marijuana within the office” or for participating in “conduct [that] fall[s] beneath the usual of care usually accepted for [the employee’s] place” as a consequence of being underneath the affect of medical marijuana; and
the MMA permits employers to ban an worker from performing any obligation that might lead to a public well being or security threat whereas underneath the affect of medical marijuana.
The court docket even particularly discovered that the “public well being or security” exception at (3) above, “would clearly apply to intensive care unit nurses” like Swope “who’re underneath the affect of medical marijuana whereas on the job or in coaching.”
Lastly, the court docket disposed of the remaining arguments raised by the PHRC, discovering that the MMA was not irreconcilable with the PHRA and PFEOA, that the MMA didn’t impliedly amend the PHRA or PFEOA, and that the PHRC’s interpretation of the PHRA was not entitled to deference as a result of its interpretation would “frustrate legislative intent.” Because of its evaluation, the court docket reversed the PHRC’s order and remanded the matter to the PHRC for the needs of granting HACC’s movement to dismiss.
Though the Commonwealth Courtroom of Pennsylvania made a degree to notice that this was not an employment case, its evaluation gives welcome steerage for Pennsylvania employers relating to the interaction between the MMA and the PHRA, in addition to the contours of the MMA’s antidiscrimination provision. Certainly, the court docket’s reasoning strongly means that an worker can’t sue his or her employer underneath the PHRA for failing to accommodate medical marijuana utilization because of the act’s exclusion of present, unlawful drug use, as outlined by the federal CSA.
You will need to notice, nonetheless, that Pennsylvania state and federal courts have held that the MMA accommodates an implied personal proper of motion that allows staff to sue for violations of the MMA’s employment antidiscrimination provision. As well as, following this resolution, the Pennsylvania Basic Meeting might face strain to amend the PHRA to permit staff to deliver incapacity discrimination claims associated to the usage of medical marijuana. In truth, in a concurring opinion, Choose Anne E. Covey urged the Basic Meeting to do exactly that.
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