Justia Drugs & Biotech Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Plaintiff Scott Paine appealed a superior court decision granting judgment on the pleadings for his employment discrimination claim against defendant, Ride-Away, Inc. Plaintiff suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for many years, which substantially limited a major life activity. He was employed by defendant at its facility in Londonderry, New Hampshire as an automotive detailer in May 2018. In July 2018, his physician prescribed cannabis to help treat his PTSD, and plaintiff enrolled in New Hampshire’s therapeutic cannabis program. Plaintiff submitted a written request to defendant for an exception from its drug testing policy as a reasonable accommodation for his disability. Plaintiff explained that he was not requesting permission to use cannabis during work hours or to possess cannabis on defendant’s premises. Plaintiff was informed that he could no longer work for the company if he used cannabis. After plaintiff notified defendant that he was going to treat his PTSD with cannabis, his employment was terminated in September 2018. Plaintiff sued for employment discrimination, based on defendant’s failure to make reasonable accommodation for his disability. Defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings, asserting that, because marijuana use was both illegal and criminalized under federal law, the requested accommodation was facially unreasonable. After a hearing, the trial court granted defendant’s motion. The sole question before the New Hampshire Supreme Court was whether the court erred in ruling that the use of therapeutic cannabis prescribed in accordance with New Hampshire law could not, as a matter of law, be a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability under RSA chapter 354-A. The Supreme Court held the trial court erred in determining that the use of therapeutic cannabis prescribed in accordance with RSA chapter 126-X could not, as a matter of law, be a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability under RSA chapter 354-A. "[P]laintiff’s disability is PTSD, not the illegal use of or addiction to a controlled substance." Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Paine v. Ride-Away, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Robert Kenney was a former employee of Defendant Helix TCS, Inc. (“Helix”), which provided security services for businesses in Colorado’s state-sanctioned marijuana industry. Kenney filed this lawsuit against Helix under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), alleging that Helix misclassified him and similarly situated workers as exempt from the FLSA’s overtime obligations. Helix moved to dismiss Kenney’s claim based on the Controlled Substance Act (“CSA”), arguing that Kenney’s employment activities were in violation of the CSA and are thus not entitled to FLSA protections. The Tenth Circuit concluded Helix wanted it to interpret the CSA in a manner implicitly repealing the FLSA’s overtime mandate for employers in the marijuana industry. The Tenth Circuit determined the “case law is clear that employers are not excused from complying with federal laws” because of their other federal violations. “Moreover, the purposes of the FLSA do not conflict with the CSA quite as directly as Helix implies. Helix cherry-picks among the enumerated purposes of the FLSA, citing only those most favorable to its arguments.” The Tenth Circuit did not draw conclusions about the merits of Kenney’s FLSA claims. Rather, the Court held only that Kenney and similarly situated individuals were not categorically excluded from FLSA protections. It therefore affirmed the denial of Helix’s motion to dismiss. View "Kenney v. Helix TCS" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from the judgment of the court of appeals in which the court concluded that the Industrial Commission of Ohio should not have denied the application of Appellee for permanent total disability compensation, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment to the extent that it granted a limited writ of mandamus. The Commission denied Appellee's application, in part, based on Appellee’s refusal to participate in rehabilitative services. The court of appeals issued the limited writ ordering the Commission to address the merits of Appellee’s application without relying on his alleged refusal to accept vocational-rehabilitation services. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and ordered the Commission to consider all the evidence in the record that is related to vocational-rehabilitation services before determining whether Appellee was entitled to permanent total disability compensation. View "State ex rel. Gulley v. Industrial Commission of Ohio" on Justia Law

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In 2000 and 2002 the FDA issued warnings to Caraco, a Michigan pharmaceutical manufacturer, stating that failure to correct violations promptly could result in enforcement action without further notice. After follow-ups in 2005, the FDA sought a definitive timeline for corrective actions. The FDA issued notices of objectionable conditions in 2006, 2007, and 2008. A consultant audited Caraco’s facilities and stated that it was “likely that FDA will initiate some form of seizure action.” Caraco executives thought the consultant “alarmist.” Later, the FDA issued a formal warning, determining that Caraco products were adulterated and that its manufacturing, processing, and holding policies did not conform to regulations and noting its poor compliance history. The letter stated that failure to promptly correct the violations could result in legal action without further notice, including seizure. A new consultant warned of likely enforcement action. Caraco followed some of its suggestions. In 2009, Caraco issued a nationwide drug recall, constituting “a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of, or exposure to, a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.” The FDA filed a complaint, served Caraco, and seized products. Days later, Caraco began a mass layoff, indicating that it did not “reasonably foresee" the FDA action. A certified class of former Caraco employees alleged that Caraco violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, 29 U.S.C. 2101, by failing to provide 60 days notice. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that the FDA action was not an unforeseeable business circumstance that would excuse WARN Act compliance. View "Calloway v. Caraco Pharma. Lab., Ltd." on Justia Law

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Townsend worked as an Arkansas pharmaceutical sales representative for Bayer, selling Mirena, a contraceptive device. Townsend visited physicians, including Dr. Shrum. Townsend learned Shrum was importing from Canada a version of Mirena that was not FDA-approved, at half the cost of the approved version. Shrum had submitted Medicaid claims at the same rate as the approved version and bragged about $50,000 in extra profit. Townsend sought guidance from his superiors. Bayer told Townsend not get involved. Townsend called the Medicaid Fraud Hotline, although he feared losing his job. Shrum was charged with Medicaid fraud. Meanwhile, Bayer changed its method of reimbursing sales expenses. Not understanding the change, Townsend’s wife spent funds intended for those expenses, causing Townsend’s account to be closed temporarily. Although Townsend's account had been reactivated, Bayer fired him, claiming his closed account prevented him doing his job. Townsend sued, citing anti-retaliation provisions of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3730(h).). A jury awarded Townsend back pay, doubled to $642,746, and $568,000 in emotional distress damages. The court denied front pay and ordered Bayer to reinstate Townsend. The Eighth Circuit affirmed on all issues except the emotional distress damage award and remanded to allow Townsend the option of accepting a remittitur of $300,000, or a new trial on emotional distress damages. View "Townsend v. Bayer HealthCare Pharm. Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2008, Michigan passed the MMMA, Comp. Laws 333.26421, to protect medical marijuana. Any “qualifying patient” who possesses a registry identification card is not “subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty of any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business.” Plaintiff was employed by Wal-Mart for five years before he was terminated after testing positive for marijuana, in violation of the company’s drug use policy. The test was administered on the day after Plaintiff injured his knee at work. Plaintiff was diagnosed with sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor at age 17; he experiences constant pain and side effects of medications. In 2008, Plaintiff’s oncologist recommended marijuana; Plaintiff obtained a registry card and maintains that he followed state laws, never used marijuana at work, nor did he work under the influence. Plaintiff sued in state court for wrongful discharge and MMMA violation; defendants removed to federal court based on diversity. The district court denied remand and dismissed. The court held that the store manager, a Michigan resident, was fraudulently joined and that the MMMA does not regulate private employment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that the manager had no potential liability. View "Casias v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in consolidated cases claim that, during their tenures as pharmaceutical sales representatives employed by Lilly and Abbott, they were misclassified as exempt employees and denied overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201-19. The employers argued that the administrative exemption and the outside sales exemptions removed the sales representatives from overtime protections. The two district courts reached opposite conclusions. After considering an amicus brief from the Department of Labor, the Seventh Circuit held that, under regulations of the Department of Labor, the pharmaceutical sales representatives are classified properly within the administrative exemption to overtime requirements. The court did not address the outside sales exemption. The sales representatives were compensated on a salary basis and their work is directly related to the general business operations of the pharmaceutical companies; they were required to exercise a significant measure of discretion and independent judgment, despite the constraints placed on them, and on all representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, by the regulatory environment in which they work. View "Schaefer-LaRose v. Eli Lilly & Co." on Justia Law

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Appellant sued his former employer, alleging that it wrongfully terminated his employment by violating Missouri's public policy exception to the state's at-will employment doctrine. Appellant alleged that the employer discharged him either because he refused to "validate" adulterated drugs or because he acted as a "whistle blower" by reporting that the employer manufactured adulterated drugs. The court held that appellant failed to create a genuine fact issue as to whether the employer's validation processes violated a clearly established stated public policy. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the employer. View "Bazzi v. Tyco Healthcare Group" on Justia Law