On August 5, 2021, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held for the first time that Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) allows an employee to sue his or her employer for taking an adverse employment action based on the employee’s status as a certified user of medical marijuana. In Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems, Inc., et al., the superior court affirmed the decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, allowing the employee’s MMA claim to proceed. In so holding, the superior court found that the MMA as a whole and the statute’s employment provision, 35 P.S. § 10231.2103(b) (Section 2103), indicate that Pennsylvania’s legislature intended to create an implied private right of action for aggrieved employees. Although this decision clarifies employee rights and employer obligations under the MMA, additional key questions still remain.
In 2017, Pamela Palmiter began working as a medical assistant for Medical Associates of NEPA. In December 2018, Palmiter became licensed to use medical marijuana within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania due to chronic pain, migraines, and persistent fatigue. Around that time, the defendant hospital acquired Medical Associates of NEPA. Palmiter alleged that, despite this acquisition, her superiors had assured her that she would maintain her job and seniority. Palmiter applied for the position of certified medical assistant with the hospital in January 2019 and was notified that she was “a new employee of [the Hospital].” Later that month, however, Palmiter submitted to a pre-employment drug test and tested positive for marijuana. Although Palmiter claimed that she had shared her medical marijuana certification with the drug-testing laboratory, the hospital allegedly terminated her employment due to the positive drug screen.