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Court Says Walmart’s Firing Violated Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Law

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On March 22, 2019, the U.S. District Court in Arizona granted summary judgment on anti-discrimination claims in favor of the plaintiff former employee and against Walmart under Arizona’s medical marijuana statute. The plaintiff, a former employee of Walmart, had been terminated after allegedly testing positive for marijuana.

This case is significant because as more states are adopting medical marijuana laws, this represents the growing risks to employers who engage in adverse employment actions against medical marijuana users. Furthermore, since the decision was in federal court, it is even more significant. In this case, Arizona employers gained some much needed guidance for navigating Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).

The court held that individuals with medical marijuana cards can sue their employers under the AMMA if action is taken against them merely because there is a positive drug test for the presence of marijuana. Also, employers cannot avoid liability by merely showing the employee tested positive because he or she had marijuana metabolites in their system.

The Case: Whitmire v. Wal-Mart, Inc.

In Whitmire v. Wal-Mart Inc., a former employee and qualified patient under the AMMA, injured her wrist while at work. Two days later, she notified human resources of pain and swelling in her injured wrist. At that time, her supervisor instructed her to seek medical treatment. Because she had used marijuana roughly twelve hours before her shift to help her sleep, the drug test was positive for marijuana.

As a result of that drug test alone, Wal-Mart terminated her employment. She then filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart, alleging that it had violated the AMMA by discriminating against her for her use of medical marijuana. The plaintiff argued that Walmart’s admitted policy of firing regardless of whether the employee possesses a medical marijuana card and regardless of the level detected constituted a complete disregard for the AMMA’s anti-discrimination provisions.

Violating Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).

The court agreed with the plaintiff and ruled that, without having produced any evidence that the plaintiff “used, possessed or was impaired by marijuana,” Walmart had discriminated against her in violation of the AMMA. Furthermore, by suspending and then terminating her solely based on her positive drug screen and in the absence of expert testimony, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff on her AMMA discrimination claim.

It should be remembered, however, that in this case, Arizona has a provision in its medical marijuana law that prohibits discrimination against legitimate users. Every state may not have this. If your state does not have a similar provision in your state’s medical marijuana law, you should lobby for an amendment to include one.

To read the court’s order in this case, click here.

To read about a similar case of employment discrimination dealing with marijuana use, read one of my recent blogs here.

To read about marijuana workplace discrimination in other states such as Colorado, where recreational use is legal, click here to read one of our prior blogs on our Colorado Law Blog.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Peabody, Daniel. “A New Ruling on the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act: Did Your Drug Testing Policy Just Go Up in Smoke?” JD Supra. (February 21, 2019). Web.

Mooreman, William; Samolis, Alicia. “Employer Liability For Medical Marijuana Bias Is Growing.” Law360. (March 22, 2019). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Georgia Doctors and Nurses Losing Licenses to Practice Due to Immigration Law

10 Indest-2008-7By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Hundreds of Georgia health providers are without a professional license to practice, because a new immigration law is causing massive backups in paperwork, according to a number of sources. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 or House Bill 87 went into effect on January 1, 2012, and requires every person to prove his or her citizenship or legal residency when the individual renews his or her license.

To read House Bill 87 in its entirety, click here.

With all of the extra paperwork required and too few staff members at the reviewing state agencies, many licenses are expiring before they can be renewed. Shortages of staff are being reported at the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and Georgia’s Medical Board. Licenses being affected include licenses for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health providers are falling through the cracks and expiring. According to a Kaiser Health News story released November 12, 2012, there’s not much that can be done to speed up the process.

Requirements are Confusing to Professionals.

Georgia House Bill 87 was aimed at blocking illegal immigrants from getting benefits but instead has created lots of confusion, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For example, when people are confused about the requirements and fail to not submit copies of acceptable identification, then their professional licenses expire and they are not legally allowed to practice.

It is reported that some individuals, instead of forwarding copies of photo identification, are sending photos of animals or pornography into the state’s online system. Officials believe this is either a form of protest or a joke, either way it slows down the review process.

To read the article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, click here.

Providers Be Aware of Medicare Conditions of Participation.

Providers need to be forewarned that if their licenses are expired Medicare conditions of participation (COPs) prohibit billing for services provided. If a service was provided while the license was expired, be prepared to refund the overpayments.

Lengthy Processing Time Has Caused More Than 1,000 Health Professionals to Lose Their Ability to Practice.

Last year, the secretary of state’s office received more than 49,000 new applications for licenses and since 2008 the state licensing division has lost almost 40 staff members.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the average time it takes for the state to process new license applications has jumped from 60 days to 70 days. The same goes for renewal applications. It used to take two days to renew a license, but now it takes 10 days.

According to Kaiser Health News, it’s estimated that 1,300 doctors, nurses and other health professionals have lost their ability to work either because they did not send in the correct paperwork, or they are stuck in the backlog of work.

The same article stated so far the new document requirements have yet to find any illegal immigrants.

Click here to read the entire article from Kaiser Health News.

Health Professionals Encouraged to Renew Licenses A.S.A.P.

The Georgia Nursing Association and the Georgia Pharmacy Association are monitoring this situation closely. The pharmacy association has been informing members about the new identification requirements and urging them to not put off applying for their licences.

Click here to see a warning about the process from the Georgia Pharmacy Association.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.

If you have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career.  Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues all over the country.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

As a health professional what   do you think about this new law in Georgia? Do you think it is ridiculous or a necessary process? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Burress, Jim. “Doctors’ And Nurses’ Licenses Snagged By New Immigration Law In Georgia.” Kaiser Health News, WABE, Atlanta and NPR. (November 12, 2012). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2012/November/12/Georgia-immigration.aspx

Redmon, Jeremy. “New ID Law Gums Up Licensing Process.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (October 15, 2012). From: ttp://www.ajc.com/news/news/new-id-law-gums-up-licensing-process/nSc6g/

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

New Immigration Law in Georgia Slows Down License Renewal Process for Doctors and Nurses

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Hundreds of Georgia health providers are without a professional license to practice, because a new immigration law is causing massive backups in paperwork, according to a number of sources. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 or House Bill 87 went into effect on January 1, 2012, and requires every person to prove his or her citizenship or legal residency when the individual renews his or her license.

To read House Bill 87 in its entirety, click here.

With all of the extra paperwork required and too few staff members at the reviewing state agencies, many licenses are expiring before they can be renewed. Shortages of staff are being reported at the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and Georgia’s Medical Board. Licenses being affected include licenses for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health providers are falling through the cracks and expiring. According to a Kaiser Health News story released November 12, 2012, there’s not much that can be done to speed up the process.

So Far Georgia House Bill 87 Is Creating Confusion and Issues for Citizens.

Georgia House Bill 87 was aimed at blocking illegal immigrants from getting benefits but instead has created lots of confusion, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For example, when people are confused about the requirements and fail to not submit copies of acceptable identification, then their professional licenses expire and they are not legally allowed to practice.

It is reported that some individuals, instead of forwarding copies of photo identification, are sending photos of animals or pornography into the state’s online system. Officials believe this is either a form of protest or a joke, either way it slows down the review process.

To read the article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, click here.

Providers Be Aware of Medicare Conditions of Participation.

Providers need to be forewarned that if their licenses are expired Medicare conditions of participation (COPs) prohibit billing for services provided. If a service was provided while the license was expired, be prepared to refund the overpayments.

Around 1,300 Doctors and Nurses Cannot Practice Due to Incorrect
Paperwork.

Last year, the secretary of state’s office received more than 49,000 new applications for licenses and since 2008 the state licensing division has lost almost 40 staff members.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the average time it takes for the state to process new license applications has jumped from 60 days to 70 days. The same goes for renewal applications. It used to take two days to renew a license, but now it takes 10 days.

According to Kaiser Health News, it’s estimated that 1,300 doctors, nurses and other health professionals have lost their ability to work either because they did not send in the correct paperwork, or they are stuck in the backlog of work.

The same article stated so far the new document requirements have yet to find any illegal immigrants.

Click here to read the entire article from Kaiser Health News.

Georgia Nursing and Pharmacy Associations Warning Members of Delays.

The Georgia Nursing Association and the Georgia Pharmacy Association are monitoring this situation closely. The pharmacy association has been informing members about the new identification requirements and urging them to not put off applying for their licences.

Click here to see a warning about the process from the Georgia Pharmacy Association.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.
If you have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career.  Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues all over the country.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

As a health professional what   do you think about this new law in Georgia? Do you think it is ridiculous or a necessary process? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Burress, Jim. “Doctors’ And Nurses’ Licenses Snagged By New Immigration Law In Georgia.” Kaiser Health News, WABE, Atlanta and NPR. (November 12, 2012). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2012/November/12/Georgia-immigration.aspx

Redmon, Jeremy. “New ID Law Gums Up Licensing Process.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (October 15, 2012). From: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/new-id-law-gums-up-licensing-process/nSc6g/

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.