New Jersey Transit Sued for Suspending Employee in Medical Marijuana Program
In what may be the first legal test of the state’s medical marijuana law in the workplace, a 57-year-old Newark man with end stage renal failure is suing NJ Transit, his employer, for suspending him and sending him into rehab because he is a registered patient with New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.
Charlie Davis, a former procurement clerk at the transit agency, says the nerves in his legs are severely damaged, causing him pain and making it difficult to sleep. Using marijuana, he says, relieves some of that discomfort, according to the lawsuit.
In December, Davis was “bumped” from his job by a more senior employee, according to the lawsuit filed last month in state Superior Court in Essex County. When he sought an available job as a “block operator” a field position, he was sent for a physical exam that required a drug test.
He told NJ Transit’s medical director he used medicinal marijuana, and offered to apply for “non-safety sensitive position” if his treatment was a problem, according to the lawsuit.
The suit says the medical director Patrice Verner, “told him that he had no choice but to take the drug test and if it came back positive, he would be sent to drug rehabilitation.”
Davis tested positive for pot on Dec. 28 and was sent to a drug treatment program. Since then, he has been out of work and not receiving a paycheck.
“Instead of working to accommodate its disabled employee, NJ Transit treated him like a drug addict,” according to his attorney, Sarah Fern Meil of Milford, who said that to her knowledge this was the first lawsuit challenging an employee’s right to work and be enrolled in the medical marijuana program.
“Charlie Davis is a courageous person,” Meil said. “Despite suffering from a debilitating illness, he’s trying his best to remain a productive member of society. The medicinal marijuana prescribed by his doctor helped ease his terrible pain and allowed him to lead a more normal life. But NJ Transit has forced Charlie to choose between his health and his job.”