Marinol-Using Worker Sues Delta for Bias

           SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – An HIV-positive flight attendant sued Delta Airlines for prohibiting him from using cannabis-based Marinol to treat his nausea and weight loss.
     Jeffrey Walls claims in Federal Court that Delta’s policy against the prescription drug is preventing him from doing his job as a flight attendant. Walls, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1994, has been taking the synthetic cannabis drug for 20 years without adverse side effects.
     After a random drug test in 2012 showed marijuana in his system, Walls informed Delta about his decades-long prescribed Marinol use. With his test results officially changed, Walls was allowed to return to work.
     But in May 2014, a Delta supervisor informed him of a new company-wide policy prohibiting Marinol use, even if prescribed by a doctor. His supervisor took him off the flight schedule and said he had to wait 10 days after his last dose before returning to work.
     “They said they were concerned about side effects. I find that very suspect,” his attorney John Scarpino said in an interview.
     Also suspicious, Walls says in the complaint, is that Delta does not prohibit other medications with the same potential side effects as Marinol, and with the same FDA warning not to drive or operate heavy machinery.
     “I have in my medicine cabinet any number of cold medications that have the exact same effects,” Scarpino said. “Since 1994, my client has never experienced any side effects from Marinol.”
     Even so, Walls says, he tried to comply with Delta’s policy. His doctor switched him to the antidepressant Remeron, but that caused migraines and drowsiness. “Ironically, Delta has no policy prohibiting the use of Remeron, despite its known side effects, while it prohibited all use of Marinol,” the complaint states.
     His doctor recommended that he go back on Marinol, so Walls requested accommodation from Delta. In November 2014, he was told he could take it on an intermittent basis, but the deal was revoked a month later and he was told he couldn’t use Marinol under any circumstances.
     Walls says that since going off Marinol, he has suffered nausea on a daily basis, and significant weight loss. Still, he chose to forego treatment so he can continue working as a flight attendant at Delta.
     Scarpino calls it a clear example of sexual-orientation and HIV discrimination.
     “There’s only two groups that Marinol is indicated for use: cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and HIV patients,” Scarpino said. “My thought is that patients with cancer who are taking Marinol would be undergoing chemotherapy, and I think the only working employees taking Marinol are people with HIV.”
     Walls seeks an injunction to allow him to continue to work while taking Marinol, and compensatory and punitive damages for disability discrimination and failure to accommodate.
     His lead attorney is Angela Alioto with the Law Offices of Joseph L. Alioto and Angela Alioto in San Francisco.
     A Delta spokeman told Courthouse News,”Delta does not discriminate against employees in any manner and remains committed to supporting our employees while ensuring compliance with health, safety and security obligations. We cannot comment specifically on pending litigation.”

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