A municipal employee who used cannabidiol (CBD) for anxiety could not bring a disability bias claim against her employer for firing her after she failed a drug test, a federal trial judge recently decided.
The employee, Mae Hamric, worked as a cultural arts program specialist for the Murfreesboro, Tenn., parks and rec department. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011 but did not disclose that to the city when it hired her. However she later disclosed to her supervisor that she was bipolar and suffered from anxiety and confided in her that she used CBD to treat her symptoms.
The supervisor eventually recommended Hamric’s promotion to a position that required a drug test. When she failed the test, the city forced her to resign.
Hamric sued the city under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act alleging it fired her because of her medical condition. She also claimed the city failed to reasonably accommodate her disability.
But the trial judge dismissed the claim, finding that there was no evidence that the supervisor or the supervisor’s boss, who may have known of Hamric’s disability, informed the human resources department before the HR director pressured her to resign. Further, the judge also dismissed Hamric’s failure-to-accommodate claim, finding that the assertion in her resignation letter that the city should revise its drug policy did not constitute a request for reasonable accommodation.
This is just one trial judge’s interpretation of the law, and other judges in other places may view the issue differently. Still, it’s a good idea to talk to an employment attorney before making termination decisions in situations like this to ensure your actions comply with the law.