BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WZZM) - Now that medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, can an employer fire a worker who tests positive for the drug?
WalMart says it can, so it did. "I was terminated because I failed a drug screening," says former WalMart employee Joseph Casias.
In 2008, Casias was the Associate Of The Year at the WalMart store in Battle Creek, despite suffering from sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor.
At his doctor's recommendation, Casias says he legally uses medical marijuana to ease his pain.
"It helps tremendously," he says. "I only use it to stop the pain. To make me feel more comfortable and active as a person."
During his five years at WalMart, Casias says he went to work every day, determined to be the best.
"I gave them everything," he says. "110 percent every day. Anything they asked me to do I did. More than they asked me to do. 12 to 14 hours a day."
But last November, Casias sprained his knee at work. Marijuana was detected in his system during the routine drug screening that follows all workplace injuries. Casias showed WalMart managers his state medical marijuana card, but he was fired anyway.
"I was told they do not accept or honor my medical marijuana card," says Casias.
In an e-mail from headquarters, WalMart spokesman Greg Rossiter explained the company policy. It states: "In states, such as Michigan, where prescriptions for marijuana can be obtained, an employer can still enforce a policy that requires termination of employment following a positive drug screen. We believe our policy complies with the law and we support decisions based on the policy."
Casias says he never used marijuana before work.
"No, I never came to work under the influence, never," he says. "I don't think it's fair. Because I have a medical condition I can't work and provide for my family?"
Casias has been collecting unemployment compensation since he was fired in November but this week he says he was notified WalMart is challenging his eligibility for benefits.
"It's not fair," he says.