A former Amazon warehouse employee says the retailer fired him after he submitted to and failed a random drug test, despite the fact that the worker — identified in court documents as D.J.C. — had a valid medical marijuana prescription, and showed his bosses the card. Now, D.J.C. is suing Amazon, alleging the company violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, effectively terminating him for treating his anxiety and panic disorder.
According to the complaint, Amazon hired D.J.C. as a warehouse associate in its Edison, New Jersey facility in November 2017. Until he was fired on August 2018, the suit states, D.J.C. never received any complaints about his work; indeed, he was promoted twice. And when he received orders to submit an Oral Fluid Drug Test on July 11th, 2018, D.J.C says he tried to tell the collector about his medical marijuana prescription, so the collector could make a note of it in the paperwork. The collector allegedly denied D.J.C the opportunity to disclose, telling him that if the test came back positive, he'd be able to document the prescription then. But that turned out not to be the case.
On August 15th, D.J.C. says his supervisor — defendant Carlos Santos — pulled him off the floor and into a meeting with an HR representative, Tony Morales, also named in the complaint. Morales allegedly told D.J.C. he was being fired for failing the drug test, when D.J.C. pulled out his medical marijuana card and explained the situation. The list of qualifying conditions to get a medical marijuana card in New Jersey expanded to include anxiety in March 2018, and earlier this year, a state appellate court ruled that employees with medical marijuana cards can't be fired if THC shows up on their drug tests -- provided they aren't showing up to work high, or using substances on the premises.
According to his complaint, Santos and Morales changed course when he showed them his card, telling him he would instead be placed on paid leave to complete a "Certificate of Work Fitness." They reportedly provided the certificate to D.J.C. on August 16th, giving him until August 22nd to get his doctor to sign off on accommodations paperwork. D.J.C. says he did that the next day, a Friday.
In the interim, however, he found out that he was not being paid for his involuntary time off, as promised. He realized this not because the company contacted him and explained the situation, but because he logged onto the Amazon Hub and noticed his last shift had been billed as "Unpaid Time Off." D.J.C. allegedly called the Amazon Employee Resource Hotline and was told a representative from Amazon Accommodations would contact him. No one ever did, so D.J.C. called back Monday evening. He was told his case had been kicked back to local HR, and when he asked about the paperwork his doctor had completed, was allegedly informed that although it would "get attached" to his file, "they didn't need it anymore."
Within the next hour and a half, D.J.C. says Morales called him and fired him for failing to disclose his medical marijuana prescription at the time of the test. D.J.C. submitted his doctor's paperwork via email on August 21st, but Amazon nonetheless confirmed his termination on August 28th. Only when he filed for unemployment benefits did D.J.C. learn that Amazon had apparently told the state he'd been fired for "failing to show up for work," the suit says.
Further, D.J.C. contends that Amazon "blacklisted" him from employment at their other companies, telling him his firing from the warehouse made him ineligible for employment when he applied to an open position at Whole Foods. The entire ordeal, according to court documents, made it harder for D.J.C. to find work elsewhere, because he "could not explain to prospective employers the basis for his termination from defendant [Amazon] and gap in employment."
Neither Amazon nor the law firm representing the company in this case returned Gothamist's request for comment by time of publication. D.J.C. is asking compensatory and punitive damages; coverage of his legal fees and costs associated with the suit; reinstatement; and all other relief allowed under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.