ACLU of Maine Sues on Behalf of Pittsfield Woman Denied Job for Using Medical Marijuana

Employment Agency’s Actions Violate Maine’s Medical Marijuana Law

February 12, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

SKOWHEGAN – The ACLU of Maine and the firm McKee Law, P.A. filed a lawsuit today on behalf of Brittany Thomas, a Pittsfield mother who was denied rehiring by a staffing firm because she uses medical marijuana in accordance with state law. The lawsuit was filed Somerset County Superior Court against Adecco Group North America, which hires people for temporary employment.

"No patient should be forced to choose between the pain relief she needs to live a normal life, and the employment she needs to support her family," said Zachary Heiden, legal director of the ACLU of Maine. "And no employer should be forcing itself into the middle of a decision best made by a patient and her doctor."

Thomas suffers from severe back pain caused by spondylosis, arthritis, two bulging disks, a herniated disk, an annular tear and a pinched nerve. She was originally prescribed narcotic pain medications, but suffered from the side effects and found she had to continually increase her dosage in order to relieve her pain. After consulting with her doctor, she tried medical marijuana and found that it controlled her pain without the side effects or increased dosages of traditional prescription pain medication.

Thomas had previously been hired through Adecco to work for United Technology Center (UTC) assembling smoke detectors. Thomas was let go when they did not have enough work for her, but she was called by Adecco to return to UTC when additional work was available. Adecco required Thomas to complete a drug screening before returning to work; she told them that she would "fail" the test because she was a registered marijuana user, and when she did in fact test positive for marijuana she was told she would not be allowed to continue employment with Adecco.

"Using medical marijuana would never have gotten in the way of me doing my job, because I never would have taken it while on duty," said Thomas. "I choose to use medical marijuana to control my pain because it doesn't have any of the side effects of stronger pain medication, like addiction. The incredible thing is, if I was using a stronger drug, I could have kept my job."

Mainers voted to decriminalize the limited use of medical marijuana for serious conditions in 2008.

"Adecco is ignoring the will of the people of Maine, who overwhelmingly approved the use of marijuana for serious medical conditions," said Walt McKee of McKee Law, P.A. "No employer should be permitted to flout state laws protecting the right of patients to access the medicine they need."

The lawsuit seeks damages from Adecco, including back wages and reinstatement.

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