Joseph Casias was the Associate of the Year in 2008 for the Walmart in Battle Creek, Michigan. He achieved this despite his ongoing struggle with sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor. During his five years with the organization, the 29 year old Casias went to work every day determined to be the best. To help manage the pain that accompanied his challenging illness, his doctor prescribed medical marijuana, which is legal in Michigan. Casias used the drug only at home and was never "high" when he reported for work. (See our recent post on medical marijuana here.)
Last November Casias sprained his knee at work. Walmart ran a routine drug screen following the injury. Unsurprisingly, Casias tested positive for marijuana. Despite the doctor's prescription, Walmart terminated Casias for violation of the company drug policy. Despite the legality of Casias's pot use, the company appears to be on firm ground: as with smokers in many states, companies are free to impose their own prohibitions on the use of otherwise legal products.
Casias collected unemployment insurance after his termination. Now it appears that Walmart has had second thoughts about that, too. They are contesting his UI eligibility, as he was terminated for cause. Casias has already been collecting UI for over three months, so he is likely nearing the end of the benefit. But when Walmart sees a penny on the floor, they will push old ladies aside to get it.
Company Speech, Company Soul
In a recent ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that corporations have the same free speech rights as do individuals. Perhaps the court will be tempted to take it one step further and rule that corporations have souls.
One look at Walmart should convince them otherwise. In their typical tone-deaf manner, Walmart has acted within legal parameters; Casias was in technical violation of company drug policy, even though his drug use was medically necessary and presented no risk to the employee, co-workers or the public. Casias was an award-winning employee - but, I suspect, a drag on the company health plan. So Walmart seized the opportunity of a failed drug test to show Casias the door.
As usual, Walmart shoppers, there are plenty of specials today, but don't bother looking in aisle three for remnants of compassion or a company soul .
Note: We have blogged Walmart's compassion struggles many times. Just enter "Walmart" into the site search engine in the column to the right.