Connecticut Appellate Court Rules Companies Can Fire Medical Cannabis Patients Who Come to Work Impaired

Per a recent Connecticut Appellate Court ruling, employers in the state have the right to fire employees who come to work while impaired by medical cannabis.

Full story after the jump.

Connecticut employers have the right to terminate employees who come to work impaired by medical cannabis, a state Appellate Court judge ruled this month, according to an Insurance Journal report. The court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against a nonprofit pre-school that had fired a teaching assistant after she showed up to work under the influence of medical cannabis, which violated the school’s drug-free workplace policy.

The court ruled that despite the state’s medical cannabis law, employers “may prohibit qualifying patients from being under its influence in the workplace” and that employees who make claims under the law must prove they were terminated solely because they are a medical cannabis patient.

The court also affirmed the right of employers to seek drug tests for employees when the employer has a “reasonable suspicion” that an employee is violating its drug-free workplace policy.

The case dates back to 2019 when the employee, who is a registered patient for epilepsy under the state’s medical cannabis program, called a child by the wrong name, which led to her behavior being questioned by a colleague, the report says. The employee responded that “her head was just not right,” according to her colleague in court records, because she likely had ingested too much cannabis and the effects carried over into the workday. Six days later she took a drug test, testing negative for cannabis but positive for Valium, which she was also prescribed, the report says. The employee was first suspended and later fired following an investigation.

In terminating the employee, the school said it was unrelated to her medical condition, rather that she had shown up to work impaired. The employee filed a grievance, but both the school’s grievance committee and board of directors upheld the termination, the report says. The employee filed an employment discrimination complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and in her accompanying affidavit alleged that the school “terminated her employment because of her disability” and “failed to accommodate her by prohibiting her from working while taking prescription medication for her disability.”

In the Appellate Court decision dismissing the complaint, the court said that the state’s medical cannabis law contains language making clear that it shall not restrict an “employer’s ability to prohibit the use of intoxicating substances during work hours or restrict an employer’s ability to discipline an employee for being under the influence of intoxicating substances during work hours” and that the employee “failed to follow company policy and procedures.”

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