On June 15, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court held that an employer was permitted to discharge an employee due to his licensed medical use of marijuana at home during nonworking hours. In the case, Coats v. Dish Network, the employee had worked for the employer for three years before he tested positive for marijuana during a random drug test. The employee informed his employer that he was a registered medical marijuana patient who used marijuana to treat muscle spasms caused by his quadriplegia. The employer responded by terminating his employment for violating the company's zero tolerance drug policy.
The employee promptly filed a wrongful termination claim under the Colorado state law. The Colorado statute at issue makes it a discriminatory employment practice for a Colorado employer to discharge an employee based on lawful activities conducted outside of work. The Colorado Supreme Court reasoned that while marijuana use is lawful under Colorado state law, it is still unlawful under federal law. As such, the Court held that the employer could lawfully terminate the employee for his medical use of marijuana.
In addition, Minnesota employers must analyze whether their actions might run afoul of other employment laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Minnesota Human Rights Act, or even the Minnesota lawful consumable products statute. While employers now have one legal opinion to analyze, they are still largely left wading in the weed(s) of emerging state medical marijuana law.
The information contained in this post is provided to alert you to legal developments and should not be considered legal advice. It is not intended to and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Specific questions about how this information affects your particular situation should be addressed to one of the individuals listed. No representations or warranties are made with respect to this information, including, without limitation, as to its completeness, timeliness, or accuracy, and Lathrop GPM shall not be liable for any decision made in connection with the information. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.