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Can you fire an employee for legal medical marijuana use in New York?
You can, but you may end up paying a lot of money for it.
What happened: Thomas V. Apholz, 44, a wastewater treatment worker in Amsterdam, New York was fired by Mayor Michael Cinquanti some three years ago for testing positive for cannabis.
He was fired under the provisions of a “last chance agreement” that had been given to him when he screened positive for cannabis in 2017. The agreement included a clause noting that further violations of the city’s drug policies could lead to the firing, writes Times Union.
Why it matters: “They couldn’t fire him fast enough,” said Kevin A. Luibrand, Apholz’s attorney. “They gave him a termination letter on a Monday that fired him the prior Sunday so he couldn’t present his prescription card.”
About one year before he was fired, Apholz became a registered medical marijuana patient; his doctors prescribed cannabis for chronic back pain. Legally consuming for medical reasons in the form of a capsule on non-workdays or in the evening at home when his pain became unbearable, Apholz decided to fight. He went to city officials and explained his case.
What now: After a five-day trial before state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca A. Slezak, the jury reached its verdict: city officials have to pay $191,762 to Apholz for discrimination and for violating state Human Rights Law. Furthermore, Apholz will be allowed to apply to the judge to order his reinstatement at the wastewater treatment plant.