Employees Can Be Fired For Off-Duty Use of Marijuana
15 Jun 2015
The long-awaited decision by the Colorado Supreme Court regarding whether an employee who is engaged in the use of medicinal marijuana, that is legal under Colorado Constitution Amendment 20, can avail himself of protection under the Colorado lawful off-duty activities statute was issued this morning. Brandon Coats was fired by his employer, Dish Network Corp., after testing positive for THC during a random drug test conducted by the employer. Coats’ physician prescribed medical marijuana to help him cope with spasms and seizures resulting from quadriplegia. Coats used medicinal marijuana off-duty and in accordance with Amendment 20, but because the medicinal marijuana was in his system at the time Dish conducted a random drug test, Dish terminated Coats for violating its zero-tolerance policy for prohibited substances, which includes marijuana. After being fired, Coats sued Dish arguing that he used medical marijuana on his own time and not on Dish property and therefore his termination was in violation of the lawful off-duty activities statute, which prohibits employers from terminating employees for lawful off-duty conduct. The Colorado Supreme Court held today that in order for an employee to be protected under this statute, the activity must be lawful under both state and federal law.