When Colorado decriminalized the use of marijuana on January 1, 2014, many employees thought it would be safe to engage in their pastime on lunch breaks and outside work without fear of repercussions from their employer. After all, the citizens of that state scored an apparent victory by “legalizing” the use of pot. Unfortunately, employees who choose to use marijuana recreationally still need to comply with employer drug-free policies. This is because nothing in the state law prohibits employers from banning the use of marijuana at their workplaces. Further, employers may test their employees for marijuana use.
Dish Network Employee Fired for Legal Use of Marijuana Takes Case to Colorado Supreme Court
A Dish Network employee was fired for off-duty use of medical marijuana and sued the employer. After the termination was upheld by the trial court and Colorado Court of Appeals, the case was taken up by theColorado Supreme Court. The Colorado Attorney General filed a brief in support of upholding employer rights to terminate employees for the legal use of marijuana in violation of their anti-drug policies. You may be thinking, how can this be? We voted to legalize marijuana! Although the use of marijuana is not a crime in Colorado, language in the law left employers holding all the cards with respect to their places of employment. This is an important fact to remember if you are considering challenging your employer’s right to discipline or terminate you for legally using marijuana.
Employees have argued that the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado while off-duty is akin to smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol away from the job, and that they should be protected from termination for engaging in activity that is not against the law. This issue will be analyzed by the Colorado Supreme Court in the coming weeks. For now however, employees should refrain from flying in the face of employer anti-drug policies even though they cannot be criminally prosecuted for using marijuana recreationally in the state of Colorado.
Marijuana Use Still Illegal Under Federal Law
The recreational use of marijuana is still prohibited by federal law. In fact, the FDA classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug with no legitimate medical purpose. Even in Colorado and other locations where the use of marijuana has been decriminalized, state legislatures and courts have so far ruled that employers have the right to prohibit its use in and around the workplace, and can also terminate employees for legally using marijuana away from work. As counterintuitive as such a policy may seem, for now it is the law. If you are a recreational marijuana user who has recently been fired, do not hesitate to contact theEmployment Attorneys at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP at (303) 991-3075 for an analysis of your situation. You may have a right to recover for damages due to other illegal employer conduct.