What are rights of medical marijuana users?

My husband has his medical card to smoke pot through the State of Washington. He was asked to take a drug test and failed due to the pot. His employer told his results to tenants of the apartment complex that he worked for. He did not lose his job but quit due to her telling people about his results. Is this not protected some way by HIPAA regulations? Can she get in trouble for this legally?

Posted  09-19-2012

Ann Kiernan replies:

Under the 2011 amendments to Washington’s Medical Use of Cannabis Act, employers may establish drug-free work policies and are not required to accommodate the medical use of cannabis if they have such a policy. So, if your husband’s employer was a drug-free workplace, he could have been fired legally for violating that policy.

Unless your husband’s employer is self-insured or is a health plan, the HIPAA privacy protections are probably not applicable. But he certainly has other privacy rights under Washington law, and I urge him to consult a local employment lawyer to find out more.

Good luck.


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About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.