A Battle Creek man, who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes, is suing Wal-Mart for firing him after he injured himself at work, received treatment and tested positive for marijuana during a drug test.
The lawsuit was filed in Calhoun County Circuit Court today by the American Civil Liberties Union, in partnership with a law firm, on behalf of Joseph Casias, 30, who has an inoperable brain tumor and is in remission for sinus cancer, and uses marijuana to alleviate his pain.
According to the lawsuit filed today, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, “protects employees from being disciplined for their use of medical marijuana” in accordance with the law.
At the recommendation of his oncologist, Casias applied with the state so he could legally use marijuana and, in June 2009, received his card from the Michigan Department of Community Health, the lawsuit says.
The law does not protect workers from using the drug while on the job, but Casias and his attorney said he only used it at home after work. Casias said prescription painkillers made him nauseous, but marijuana relaxed him without uncomfortable side effects so that he had energy to work hard the next day.
In November 2009, Casias twisted his knee at work while pushing a cart. The next day at work, he had trouble walking, and was driven by a store manager to receive treatment. The lawsuit claims Wal-Mart has a policy requiring drug tests for employees injured at work.
Though Casias showed a store manager his card indicating he could legally use marijuana under state law, he was ultimately fired for testing positive for the drug, the lawsuit says.
A public relations official with Wal-Mart was reached, but a statement from the corporation on this lawsuit has not yet been received.
Casias had worked at Battle Creek's Wal-Mart for five years and during that time was promoted to inventory stock manager. Out of 400 store employees, he was one of two people named Associate of the Year in 2008, according to his attorneys.
The father of two said he is seeking financial compensation and would like to have his job back but doubts that is possible now. He said he is receiving unemployment benefits, but has no other income.
"I feel it is unfair to me and my family," he said.
Korobkin said this lawsuit – the first of its kind he knows of in the state – could be precedent setting.
“This is a path-breaking case to protect all of the patients in Michigan, whose rights are not protected by Michigan law,” he said. “I think it’s important to send a message that even though Wal-Mart is a very large corporation, they don’t write the laws.”