September 20, 2020

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Colorado Supreme Court Set To Decide Seminal Drug Testing Case

As reported by Joe Palazzolo of the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Colorado’s Supreme Court recently heard arguments on whether an employer can lawfully terminate an employee for off-the-job use of medical marijuana.

The case is Coats v. Dish Network, L.L.C.  The plaintiff, Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic licensed by the State of Colorado to use medical marijuana, was discharged by Dish Network after having failed a company drug test.  According to the plaintiff, however, he had used marijuana within the limits of his state license, never used the drug on company premises, and was not under the influence at work at any time.  The plaintiff therefore claimed that the company had terminated his employment in violation of Colorado’s “off-duty conduct law,” which allows employees to “engage in any lawful activity off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours.”

Colorado courts have disagreed with the plaintiff thus far, however, dismissing his complaint at every turn.  Though Colorado is only one of two states to have legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes, the drug remains illegal under federal law.  It is for this reason that Colorado’s district and appeals courts held that the plaintiff’s use of marijuana was not a “lawful activity” covered by Colorado’s off-duty conduct law.

Stay tuned to see what Colorado’s Supreme Court decides . . .

© 2020 Proskauer Rose LLP. National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 293


About this Author

Katharine H Parker, Labor Employment Attorney, Proskauer Rose Law Firm

Katharine Parker is a Partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Employment Law Counseling & Training and Government Regulatory Compliance and Relations Groups.

Daniel L Saperstein, Proskauer Law Firm, Labor Employment Attorney

Daniel L. Saperstein is an Associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department, resident in the Newark office. He is a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration, Labor-Management Relations, Employment Law Counseling & Training, International Labor & Employment, and Whistleblower & Retaliation Groups, as well as the Dodd-Frank Task Force.