This article is Part Three of our Medical Marijuana and the Workplace: Recent Decisions from New England Courts Provide Significant Protections to Medical Marijuana Patient Employees Five-Part Series.
A few months before the Barbuto opinion, see Parts 1 and 2, a Rhode Island court issued a summary judgment ruling making it easier for employees to claim employment discrimination resulting from their status as qualifying medical marijuana patients. See Callaghan v. Darlington Fabrics Corp., 2017 WL 2321181 (R.I. Super. May 23, 2017). Judge Licht of the Rhode Island Superior Court issued an opinion in which he discussed the intent of Rhode Island’s General Assembly in enacting the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, G.L. 1956 §§ 21-28.6-1 et seq. (the “Hawkins-Slater Act” or “RIMMA”). Plaintiff Christine Callaghan alleged that because she held a medical marijuana card, Defendants Darlington Fabrics Corporation (“Darlington”) and the Moore Company (collectively, “Defendants”) had discriminated against her with respect to hiring for an internship position. See id. at 1.
The material facts forming the foundation of Ms. Callaghan’s claims were not disputed by the parties. Plaintiff needed to complete an internship to fulfill the requirements of her Master’s program at the University of Rhode Island. Id. Ms. Callaghan’s professor directed her to Darlington, a division of Moore Company, where Plaintiff met with Darlington’s Human Resources Coordinator, Karen McGrath, on June 30, 2014. Id. After Plaintiff was required to sign a Fitness for Duty Statement, which acknowledged that she would have to take a drug test before being hired, Plaintiff advised Ms. McGrath that she held a medical marijuana card authorized by the RIMMA. Id.
During a conference call on July 2, 2014, Ms. McGrath and a colleague asked Plaintiff whether she was currently using medical marijuana. Plaintiff responded affirmatively, explained that she would test positive for marijuana, and informed Darlington’s employees that she was allergic to other pain medications and would neither use nor bring medical marijuana with her into the workplace. Plaintiff did not receive an internship.
Plaintiff then filed a three-count complaint on November 12, 2014. Count I sought a declaration that the “failure to hire a prospective employee based on his or her status as a medical marijuana card holder and user is a violation of the” Hawkins-Slater Act. See id. at 2 Counts II and III sought damages: Count II alleged Defendants’ conduct violated the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act (RICRA), G.L. 1956 §§ 42-112-1 et seq.; and Count III alleged violations of the Hawkins-Slater Act due to employment discrimination. See id. Defendant moved for summary judgment on all three counts under Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure 56. Plaintiff filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on Counts I and III, and otherwise opposed Defendants’ motion on Count II. See id. at 1.
The Court first endeavored to determine whether § 21-28.6-4(d) of the RIMMA, which provides that “No school, employer, or landlord may refuse to enroll, employ,