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Instructing Employees to break the law... legally? Massachusetts

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  • Instructing Employees to break the law... legally? Massachusetts

    Hello,

    I have a rather convoluted story so please bear with me during the over-explanation.

    My wife works for a company (for profit, not a school) that helps young adult Asperger students adjust to living independently. It is a fully residential program for ages 16-22. As one would expect, there is a strict no drugs or alcohol policy on their campus.

    Recently, they have taken on a new student who's official residence is in a state where medical marijuana is fully legalized. For legitimate medical reasons, this student has a prescription from that state. Her father is the one who brings the marijuana to her (in basic smokable form), so for all intents and purposes... it's all above board so far.

    The company has told this student that she is not allowed to smoke marijuana on campus and that if she wished to continue her prescription she would have to use an edible version of the medication. The student has not complied and has continued to be caught and disciplined for this.

    According to company policy, at this point the student should be expelled. However, the executive director has stated that they do not want to lose the tuition by expelling this student. The executive director has instructed the residential team to escort the student off campus and supervise her use of the medical marijuana.

    The residential team is worried that this puts them in a potentially illegal situation. The residential team are NOT registered caregivers which seems to be required under the new marijuana laws. Additionally, the law seems to imply that one must use this in a private setting and aside from on-campus location, there are no private settings available to the residential staff. Since medical marijuana is so new, it is currently difficult for these folks to understand what it is they should and should not do.

    My questions: What can the residential team do to protect themselves legally? If they have instructions, in writing, from the executive director of the company is ignorance of the law enough to allow them to pass the buck uphill in case they are confronted by police? As these residential workers will most likely be working with other teens and young adults in the future, they are worried that an arrest or incident could cause them to fail a future CORI check. What can an employee do if they are specifically instructed to bend or break the law?

    As always, thank you very much for any advice you can give. I've asked many questions on this site and you have always been so helpful. I truly appreciate the advice and service you provide.

    Best,
    -J

  • #2
    I just found out a bit more information that makes the entire situation significantly more sketchy. Apparently, the father has "said" that his daughter has a prescription but has been unable to produce any paperwork. The company believes that he is possibly not telling the truth.

    Therefore, the Executive Director is outright instructing the staff to take a student off campus to break the law. What recourse does the staff have?

    Thanks again,
    -J

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    • #3
      This is one of those situations which really requires consultation with a lawyer. From an employment law perspective, there is not a lot of recourse. Most whistleblower laws are set up to protect against retaliation for reporting or refusing to violate laws related to employment (DOL, wage and hour, OSHA, etc.). This is really more criminal law, though it is possible, that there might be a cause of action under public policy if the employees refuse to comply with breaking an actual law. Being told to assist someone, especially a minor or vulnerable person, with taking illegal drugs does not insulate anyone from criminal charges. The police really don't care if someone told them to do it or they acted on their own.
      I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

      Comment


      • #4
        Having less than an ounce of pot is now a civil penalty rather than criminal. So even without a medical card she may not be breaking the law. Although I do believe any smoking of pot in a public area is still illegal.

        I agree with Elle that a meeting with a lawyer is the best way to go.

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