Photo: 303 Magazine
A medical marijuana patient in Colorado has been rewarded unemployment benefits after being fired from his job for positive drug test results.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in Sosa v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office that the evidence presented by an employer at a claims hearing fell short of proving a sufficient basis for the denial of unemployment benefits to the man, who tested positive in the employer’s drug screen, according to Lexology.
A registered medical marijuana patient was required to undergo urinalysis when his supervisor claimed the employee exhibited “behavior suggesting he might be under the influence of drugs.”
When asked to undergo testing, he responded that he would likely test positive, as he was a medical marijuana patient and had recently consumed marijuana for medicinal purposes.
His test results were positive, and under the employer’s “zero tolerance” policy, his employment was terminated.
At the hearing, a Human Resources representative for the company testified about the employer’s “zero tolerance” policy. However, the employer didn’t present any evidence that the laboratory conducting the test was certified or licensed. This was seen as a crucial omission by the Court of Appeals.
“Although the outcome is disappointing for employers, the decision implies (while not saying so explicitly) that such benefits will be denied in similar situations if employers present some readily available evidence in the trials of such claims,” according to a press release from Sherman & Howard, the law firm representing the company.
Sherman & Howard represented the employer in the appeals following the initial hearing officer’s award of unemployment benefits to the claimant. The Industrial Claims Appeals Office overturned the initial award, ruling for the employer, and the ICAO decision has now been reversed by the Court of Appeals.
“We have argued in the appeal that the employer’s certification/licensure evidence omission should have no significance,” Sherman & Howard’s press release plaintively states. “Our contention, which is supported by legal authority, is that evidence of a lab’s certification or license is merely intended to ensure the accuracy of the drug test results, a matter that became moot when the claimant himself — when directed to go for testing — said he would likely test positive.”
“The ‘silver lining’ in this decision is that this employer’s unfortunate mistake need not be replicated,” Sherman & Howard said in the release.