United States: New Jersey Court Upholds Arbitration Of Employee’s Discrimination Claims Arising From His Use Of Medical Marijuana

United States: New Jersey Court Upholds Arbitration Of Employee’s Discrimination Claims Arising From His Use Of Medical Marijuana
CANNANNEW REPORT

23 May 2022 by Peter L. Frattarelli and Daniel DeFiglio Archer & Greiner P.C. The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, recently upheld a private employer’s arbitration provision and found that the employee’s claims belonged in private arbitration. This case, Antonucci v. Curvature Newco, Inc., is important because it is the first reported decision in New Jersey to expressly find that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts a 2019 amendment to New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -50, which prohibits certain types of restrictions in employment agreements, including arbitration clauses. The facts of the underlying case – as set forth in the complaint – are straightforward. The employee (Antonucci) was hired by the employer (Curvature) in 2010 and is a “lawful user of medical marijuana.” In May 2020, someone anonymously reported that they smelled marijuana on Antonucci, and Curvature asked him to take a drug test. Plaintiff thereafter tested positive for cannabis and was terminated. Relevant here, however, was that in October 2019, Curvature sent Plaintiff an electronic version of the company’s 112-page Codes of Ethics and Conduct and Employee Handbook (the Handbook), which included an Arbitration Agreement as a separate appendix. When Plaintiff sued alleging discrimination, Curvature moved to compel arbitration. Although he lost in the trial court, on appeal, Plaintiff argued, among other things, that the Arbitration Agreement was unenforceable because it denied him the “procedural” right to a jury trial guaranteed by a 2019 Amendment to the LAD. That specific amendment provides that “any employment contract that waives any substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment shall be deemed against public policy and unenforceable.” Interpreting federal law, the panel disagreed and enforced the Arbitration Agreement against Plaintiff, despite what the LAD stated. As noted, this decision is important…

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Source : United States: New Jersey Court Upholds Arbitration Of Employee’s Discrimination Claims Arising From His Use Of Medical Marijuana

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