The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld Dish Network’s firing of an employee who failed the company’s standard drug test due to off-the-job medical marijuana use.  In its opinion the court stated, “[W]e can find no legislative intent to extend employment protection to those who engage in activities that violate the federal law.”  This decision is precedent-setting and resolves a key concern of employers in light of the legalization of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes in Colorado.

While there is much debate regarding this ruling, and it is likely that this decision will be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, employers have some assurance they are free to continue with their standard drug testing procedures, keeping in mind these best practices:

  • Colorado courts and the unemployment office still want well-articulated drug testing policies that provide advance notice to the employee of the employer’s intent to engage in drug testing;
  • Employers must be consistent in their application of policies to all employees; and
  • Employers must treat employees with similar drug testing results in the same manner.

Ireland Stapleton’s employment law group works closely with employers and government entities on all aspects of employment law including employment agreements;  employment handbooks and policies, including drug testing policies and procedures; disciplinarily actions; and training for employers and employees on employment-related issues including discrimination, sexual harassment, FLSA, ADA and FMLA.

To schedule a training or a time to discuss your employment policies and procedures contact our employment practice group leader, Michelle B. Ferguson, at 303-628-3658 or

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