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NJ Supreme Court Recognizes Medical Marijuana Discrimination

A funeral director who claims he was terminated because of his use of medical marijuana to manage cancer-related pain may pursue discrimination claims against his former employer, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc.

As we previously reported, the state’s Appellate Division last year reinstated Justin Wild’s anti-discrimination claims against his former employer, Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc.

After returning to work following a car-accident-related injury, Wild informed his employer that he had been using medical marijuana to treat his cancer. He explained that his doctor did not perform a drug test after his car accident because he did not appear impaired and the doctor already knew that a test would reveal the presence of marijuana metabolites. The funeral home then administered its own drug test to Wild and he tested positive for marijuana metabolites. As a result, Wild’s employment was terminated.

Before the New Jersey Supreme Court announced it would review this decision, the state’s legislature amended the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, to explicitly provide employment protections for medical marijuana users. In particular, the amended statute now prohibits employers from taking any adverse employment action “based solely on the employee’s status” as a medical marijuana patient. In addition, the amendment provides that where an employer does have a drug testing policy, any employee or applicant who tests positive for marijuana must be provided an opportunity to present a legitimate medical explanation for the positive result or to request a retest.

At the time that Wild was terminated, however, the Compassionate Use Act did not provide such explicit protection. Thus, it was up to the judiciary to determine whether employees could nonetheless pursue claims for adverse employment actions related to the use of medical marijuana. The trial court’s answer to this question was no, and it dismissed Wild’s claims, relying on the provision of the Compassionate Use Act that states, “nothing in [the Compassionate Use Act] shall be construed to require … an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace.”

In reversing the trial court’s dismissal, the Appellate Division held that Wild had stated a cognizable claim for discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) on the basis of his disability. The Appellate Division reasoned, “the Compassionate Use Act intended to cause no impact on existing employment rights” which included the right to be reasonably accommodated.

In reviewing this decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s ultimate holding and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. Notably, however, the Supreme Court declined to adopt the broad view that “the Compassionate Use Act intended to cause no impact on existing employment rights.” Specifically, the court observed that there are two particular provisions of the Compassionate Use Act that can impact an NJLAD claim: (1) the provision stating that employers are not required to accommodate medical marijuana use in the workplace; and (2) the prohibition against operating a vehicle or other heavy equipment when under the influence of marijuana.

The five-page per curiam opinion did not discuss the effect of the recent amendments to the Compassionate Use Act. The court referred only to the 2018 version of the Act, implying that it will not apply the amendments retroactively. As the decision pointed out, there are cases where an employee’s medical marijuana use may warrant termination. Employers can still terminate an employee for arriving to work impaired or for having or using marijuana while in the workplace. In addition, employers may face civil and criminal liability for allowing an employee to operate a vehicle while impaired.

As this area of the law is rapidly developing, employers should consult with experienced employment counsel to ensure that they are on solid ground before taking adverse action against an employee who has tested positive for marijuana (medicinal or otherwise) and that their drug testing policies are compliant with the Compassionate Use Act and the holding in Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc. https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/nj-supreme-court-recognizes-medical-11092/

Alleged drunken driver, 73, spits in squad car, referencing COVID-19, police say

Madison police squad stock file photo
STEVE APPS, STATE JOURNAL ARCHIVES

An alleged drunken driver repeatedly spit in the back of a squad car while referencing COVID-19 on Monday morning, Madison police reported.

James A. Bailey, 73, of Madison, told the arresting officer he was contaminating surfaces, mentioning that the COVID-19 coronavirus can be present for several hours, “so we would all be dead in 72 hours,” police spokesman Joel DeSpain said in a statement.

A witness told police Bailey was driving erratically in the pedestrian area of Library Mall at the lower end of State Street, and this is where police contacted him, DeSpain said.

Bailey was not showing signs of actually having COVID-19, but the officer needed to have the department’s COVID-19 Task Force thoroughly clean the back of her squad due to all of the saliva, DeSpain said.

Bailey was tentatively charged with discharge of bodily fluids at a public safety worker, threatening a law enforcement officer, and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/crime-and-courts/alleged-drunken-driver-73-spits-in-squad-car-referencing-covid-19-madison-police-say/article_849c628e-d735-55f8-85a5-616ba3369064.html

MLB’S TODD HELTON GETS JAIL TIME … Over 2019 DUI

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Colorado Rockies legend Todd Helton was sentenced to 2 days in jail over a 2019 incident … this after the 46-year-old pleaded guilty to DUI in court last month.

Todd was busted in Knoxville, Tenn. on March 18, 2019 after cops say the former MLB first baseman lost control of his truck and crashed it into a telephone pole.

Officers say when they arrived on scene … Helton was being taken care of by emergency medical personnel — and had admitted to taking Ambien before getting behind the wheel.

But, in the police report, cops say they found a plastic cup that reeked of booze inside his ride … and eventually, they issued a misdemeanor DUI citation to the ex-baseball player.

Helton entered a treatment program immediately after the crash after expressing remorse for his actions, but the case dragged on in court for nearly a year before he finally cut a plea deal with prosecutors on March 10.

A spokesperson for the Knox County district attorney’s office tells TMZ Sports that in exchange for pleading guilty-as-charged to DUI … he received a sentence of 48 hours in custody.

Helton also received 11 months and 29 days on unsupervised probation, a $350 fine and got his license suspended for 1 year. Helton was also ordered to attend a Victim Impact Panel.

We reached out to Helton’s attorney for comment, but so far, no word back yet.

Of course, this was not Todd’s first run-in with DUI trouble … he pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired back in 2013 in Colorado.

Helton — who played his college baseball at the University of Tennessee — is considered the greatest Rockie of all-time … and is expected to push for a spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame someday. https://www.tmz.com/2020/04/06/todd-helton-jail-time-dui-case-march-2019-colorado-rockies/

Doctor killed in suspected DUI crash on Highway 12 in Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa firefighters work at the scene of a fatal accident involving a tree-trimming truck and a blue Honda Civic at the intersection of Hwy 12 and Oakmont Drive in Santa Rosa on Thursday, April 2, 2020. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

A doctor at Santa Rosa Community Health was identified as the man killed Thursday when a tree-trimming truck whose driver is suspected of being under the influence of drugs ran a red light and crashed into his car.

Dr. Harry Gee, 69, was remembered by his colleagues as a kind, dedicated man. Known by his coworkers as “Jeff,” he joined the Vista Campus of Santa Rosa Community Health in January because he wanted to help the medically underserved, said Dr. Marie Mulligan, the campus’s medical director.

“He was kind — committed to providing excellent, caring care to his patients,” Mulligan said. “He will be missed.”

Before his death, Gee was in the process of moving to Sonoma County from Daly City with his wife, Mulligan said.

“We were all looking forward to going wine tasting with him and his wife once they made the move,” Mulligan said. “We didn’t get the chance to get to know him as well as we were hoping.”

Gee died Thursday morning after his car was struck on the left side by the tree-trimming truck whose driver, according to the CHP, ran a red light on Highway 12 at Oakmont Drive.

The truck driver — 29-year-old Tanner Robinson, an employee of Santa Rosa-based Atlas Tree service — was booked into the Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and causing injury while driving under the influence. Robinson previously faced two other DUI charges, one of which was reduced to a lesser charge in a plea deal, said CHP spokesman David deRutte.

Atlas Tree said in a statement that Robinson had been with the company for more than two years and had no driving violations or collisions while driving company vehicles. The statement said that Robinson’s crew members “did not notice any signs that he was not fit for duty prior to the incident.”

Driver of tree-trimming truck suspected of DUI in fatal Santa Rosa crash

Atlas Tree President Rich Kingsborough also said in the statement that the company’s thoughts go out to Gee’s family: “I can’t imagine the pain they are suffering.”

Gee had more than 35 years of experience as a family practitioner in and around San Francisco and Daly City, according to an internal staff email. He completed his residency at San Francisco General Hospital, and spent years training medical students and young physicians for the Dartmouth and Georgetown Medical Schools, and as a volunteer faculty member for UCSF’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.

At the Vista Campus, Gee primarily cared for adults and patients with complex medical conditions. He had an “open, caring approach” with his patients, Mulligan said.

“He took care of their medical conditions and he was curious about their lives and what was important to them,” she said.

Mulligan described Gee as friendly and well liked by his coworkers. She fondly recalled how colleagues would often stumble upon Gee “jamming” to music at his desk — he loved music of all genres, including rap.

When she informed their coworkers of his death Thursday, they were all shocked and heartbroken.

“Even though he was with us a short time, he was a beloved member of our team,” Mulligan said. “There were many moments of his kindness and even tenderness with each and every one of us.” https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10873680-181/daly-city-man-killed-in?sba=AAS

County prosecutors file first criminal charge for violation of stay-at-home order

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LAWRENCE — Marion County prosecutors filed their first criminal charge Thursday for failure to comply with the state’s stay-at-home order.

Prosecutors charged Shayne King on April 2 with failure to comply with an emergency travel watch or warning, a class B misdemeanor, following his drunk driving arrest by Lawrence Police on March 31.

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At 9:35 pm on March 31, Lawrence Police officers were dispatched to a single vehicle rollover crash with possible entrapment in the area of 6200 Oaklandon Road.

King told police he missed the curb before crashing, and police noted his speech was slurred and he smelled of alcohol, court records show. During the arrest, King became combative and verbally abuse toward officers and bit one of them, according to court documents.

He was provided a urinal jug and threw it across the room three times, prosecutors said.

“Shayne King did not state that he was traveling for any essential means while he was operating while intoxicated nor was he traveling to/from work,” read the charging documents. “Officers did not locate any food or grocery items inside the vehicle during inventory. Shayne King’s behavior and actions resulted in several officers and medical staff having to come in close contact with Shayne King unnecessarily during the incident at a time when social distancing was recommended.”

Additionally, King’s behavior in the hospital unnecessarily increased the workload of already very busy medical personnel, prosecutors said.

King is charged with OWI, OWI with an ACE of .15 or more, OWI while endangering a person, resisting law enforcement, and failure to comply with an emergency travel watch or warning by engaging in non-essential travel.

No attorney is listed for King in court records and an initial hearing is scheduled for May 7.

Indiana code states during a “watch” local travel advisory, only essential travel, such as to and from work or in emergency situations, is recommended, and emergency action plans should be implemented by businesses, schools, government agencies, and other organizations.

Call 6 Investigates requested data from Indiana State Police on enforcement of the stay at home order. Between March 25th and April 1st, Indiana State Troopers have issued 21 written citations (tickets) for violation of the stay at home order, said ISP Sgt. John Perrine. 

In each case, these tickets were in addition to other alleged criminal offenses, according to Perrine.

The final authority to move forward with the official filing of charges rests with the respective prosecutor of venue in each of these instances, Perrine said.

Zach Osowski, spokesperson for the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, told Call 6 Investigates they’re aware of at least 9 criminal charges filed against individuals throughout the state for disobeying the disaster emergency order. https://www.theindychannel.com/news/coronavirus/marion-county-prosecutors-file-first-criminal-charge-for-violation-of-stay-at-home-order