(NaturalSociety) Brandon Coates, a quadriplegic man residing in Colorado, is about to have his case heard before the US Supreme Court. The company he works for has a zero-tolerance policy for marijuana use, and has recently fired him when a random pee-test came up positive for marijuana. While employers want to uphold their right to a ‘drug-free’ workplace, are their rights infringing on medical marijuana patients’ rights?
Coates’ case is becoming the poster child for the fight between employer’s zero-tolerance drug policies and the now legal use of medical marijuana in Colorado. His employer, Dish Network, had employed him as a telephone operator at their call center, but fired him after learning that he used medical marijuana. In response, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office is supporting businesses’ right to fire medical marijuana users (even if they use outside of business hours) with a brief filed with the Supreme Court.
Coates was an ideal employee with high marks on his customer service reviews. Since he is confined to a wheelchair, this is also one of the few jobs he can work at in order to make a living. His medical marijuana use, in no way, impaired his ability to conduct his job with success. His use of medical marijuana is in accordance with Colorado’s state laws.
The Supreme Court in other states has upheld employer’s rights to fire employees who use cannabis. California, Oregon, Washington, and the federal District Court of Michigan have all upheld corporate rights over individual rights. One reason why Coates may actually win his case in Colorado is because of a particular statue not found in other states. Called the Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, it says that no one can be fired from their job for engaging in activities that are legal outside of work. For example, a sales clerk can’t be fired for posing for Playboy on the side.
Coates believes that he should be protected from being fired because he has engaged in no illegal activity, and that his state-issued medical marijuana card should give the courts all the evidence it needs to side in his favor.
The Attorney General’s office argues that allowing Coates to keep his job will mean employers would be forced to prove workers were stoned on the job before being able to fire them. “Simply put, zero tolerance policies provide businesses with an efficient means of avoiding difficult employment decisions and even litigation.”
Perhaps they can start with firing all the CEOs who engage in illegal and immoral acts on the weekend. Of course that won’t happen; there would be no one left to run the companies.