Monday, November 23, 2015

Fired medical marijuana users eligible for unemployment benefits after Michigan court ruling

DETROIT, MI -- The Michigan Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Agency in a case involving benefits for people fired from jobs over medical marijuana use.

The denial means people with medical marijuana cards who lost work after failing drug tests will continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits, based on an October 2014 appeals court ruling.
The Unemployment Insurance Agency appealed lower court decisions out of Macomb and Ingham counties that reversed rulings from the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission that said fired workers were disqualified from jobless benefits.

The state appeals court in one consolidated decision upheld those rulings.

"Claimants tested positive for marijuana and would ordinarily have been disqualified for
unemployment benefits under MESA (Michigan Employment Security Act), however, because there was no evidence to suggest that the positive drug tests were caused by anything other than claimants' use of medical marijuana in accordance with the terms of the MMMA (Michigan Medical Marijuana Act), the denial of the benefits constituted an improper penalty for the medical use of marijuana under the MMMA," the court ruled last year. 

"Because the MMMA supersedes conflicting provisions of MESA, the circuit courts did not err by reversing the MCAC's rulings that claimants were not entitled to unemployment compensation benefits."

And the Supreme Court, in a brief order issued Wednesday, declined to review the case, "because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court."

The workers involved in the case were Jenine Kemp, who was fired in 2011 from Hayes Green Memorial Hospital in Charlotte, and Stephen Kudzia, who was fired in 2012 from Avasi Services, a subsidiary of Art Van Furniture in Warren.

Both were prescribed marijuana-infused medication, Kudzia to treat knee pain after two surgeries, and Kemp to treat lupus, neuropathy, and chronic pain in her hand, according to court records. Both were fired after drug tests revealed the marijuana use.

The case initially also involved Rick Braska, who used medical marijuana for chronic back pain and was fired in 2009 from his Grand Rapids job as a forklift operator at Challenge Manufacturing Company.

Braska's case was dismissed in June after he died.
A previous federal court decision found that Michigan's medical marijuana law did not prohibit a private employer from firing a worker who used medical marijuana.

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