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Connecticut Employers Can Terminate Employees Impaired by Medical Marijuana While Working

08 May

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Update Applicable to:Effective date
All employers and multi-state businesses in ConnecticutSee details below


What happened?

On March 19, 2024, the Connecticut Appellate Court backed an employer’s right to terminate a worker who was impaired on the job by medical marijuana. The decision also clarified the factual basis an employer must possess to justify ordering a drug test based on suspicion of impairment.


What are the details?

The Case in Executive Summary

  • The Human Resources Agency of New Britain (the plaintiff and the employer) which maintained drug-free workplace policies, discharged, and later terminated Alyssa Bartolotta (the defendant and the employee), following an investigation into her potential impairment on the job, which involved working with children.
  • The employee sued the defendant alleging violation of the PUMA and violation of the drug-testing restrictions of Connecticut General Statutes.
  • Important Note: The Trial and Appellate Court’s decision supports an employer’s right to prohibit the use of marijuana in the workplace, even if the employee has been certified to use medical marijuana under state law.
  • For a complete breakdown, please see the following page.


The Courts

  • The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, and the Appellate Court affirmed this decision.
  • The plaintiff, in this case, could not establish termination solely based on her status as a medical marijuana patient under PUMA.
  • The court upheld the grant of summary judgment to an employer that was sued for allegedly violating Connecticut’s Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA) and Urinalysis Drug Testing Statute.


Conclusions

  • None of Connecticut’s statutes permitting medical (or recreational) marijuana use prohibit an employer from disciplining employees who are under the influence at work. Employers remain permitted to require drug-free workplaces.
  • Important Note: When making termination decisions, employers should be able to demonstrate that the decision was based on a violation of company policy and not solely on the employee’s status as a medical marijuana patient.


Business Considerations

  • The Appellate Court’s decision provides guidance on the “reasonable and articulable suspicion” requirement of Connecticut’s statutory limits on when employers can require urinalysis testing for drugs. Since this is a court ruling and not a legal statute, employers should seek legal counsel for any business decisions affecting onboarding and termination practices.

  • Employers should have clear, written policies that explicitly prohibit employees from working under the influence of any drug or alcohol, including medical marijuana, even if prescribed.

  • Employers should consider requiring employees to disclose if they are prescribed any medication that could impair their ability to perform their jobs safely and effectively.

  • Employers should train employees to recognize signs of impairment and to respond appropriately, especially managers and supervisors regarding when and how to initiate an investigation.

  • Employers and companies need to be aware of the specific laws in each state regarding medical (or recreational) marijuana use to ensure its policies and practices comply.

  • Employers should know that it is important to balance the needs and rights of the employee with the employer’s obligation to maintain a safe and productive work environment.


Source References


Resources

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This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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