Conn. high court sides with employee fired for smoking marijuana at work

Conn. high court sides with employee fired for smoking marijuana at work

Published on 8/23/16

Back in 2012 a state employee in Connecticut, Gregory Linhoff, was fired when he was caught smoking in a state-owned vehicle. After being arrested, his charges were soon dismissed, as well as his firing being overturned. Not only had Linhoff never had discliplinary problems in his 14 years working for the state, but he was considered a favorable employee. Marijuana helped him cope with medical problems and a pending divorce, leading an arbitrator to instead penalize him with a 6-month suspension without pay, as well as participate in random drug testing for a year. After once again being overturned by a Superior Court judge on the grounds of public policy, Linhoff's union appealed within the Supreme Court, leading the decision to be overruled one last time in a unanimous decision by all 7 Supreme Court justices. The justices ruled that although state drug policy allows for firing, it is not required, allowing some to be awarded proper second chances under the right circumstance. 

All seven justices agreed that the lower court judge was wrong to overturn the arbitrator's ruling, saying that while state policy on drug use in the work place allows for firing workers it does not require it. Justices also said that judicial second-guessing of arbitration awards is uncommon and should be reserved only for extraordinary circumstances

"By the arbitrator's estimation, (Linhoff's) personal qualities and overall record indicate that he is a good candidate for a second chance," Rogers wrote. "Moreover, the discipline the arbitrator imposed was appropriately severe, and sends a message to others who might consider committing similar misconduct that painful consequences will result."

At the time Linhoff was fired, he was seeking treatment for depression, stress and anxiety because his wife had filed for divorce and he had a cancer scare; he believed smoking pot helped to alleviate his worries, Collins said.

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