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North Carolina Ruling: Employee’s CBD Use Not Protected

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The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina recently ruled that an employee’s CBD use is not protected under federal or state law. 

At the time of hire, the employer provided a drug testing policy explaining employment offers were contingent on a negative drug and alcohol test. After the plaintiff tested positive for marijuana, the employer offered a second drug test at which point the plaintiff noted she used CBD to assist with her history of trauma caused by domestic violence. The second test came back inconclusive, and the third test returned as positive causing the employer to terminate the employee.

The court determined the plaintiff failed to prove she had a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); nor did she ever inform the employer that she had any disabilities. Further, the court found the employer articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating her employment – the failed drug test in violation of the company’s policy. Based on these findings, the court granted the employer’s summary judgment motion on the wrongful discharge claim. For many of the same reasons, the court also determined the employer was not liable on a failure to accommodate claim.

Finally, the court turned to the plaintiff’s argument that the employer violated North Carolina’s lawful use statute. The court analyzed the employer’s drug and alcohol policy noting the employer defined the term “illegal drug” as any that is illegal under federal, state or local law or regulation (with an exception for drugs lawfully prescribed). While some states have legalized marijuana, the court noted it remains illegal under federal law and North Carolina state law. The court also determined the employer’s policy related to a bona fide occupational requirement and was reasonably related to employment activities as it was designed to create a safe and productive workplace. 

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