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Supreme Court Sides with Arbitrator in Case Related to Employee Smoking Marijuana during Work Hours

Saturday, September, 10, 2016

The Connecticut Supreme Court determined a state employee should not have been fired because of smoking marijuana on the job. Legal experts say the ruling reinforces the arbitration decisions in an attempt to prevent public policy challenges. According to the justice, the court wishes to emphasize public policy-based, judicial second-guessing of arbitration awards is uncommon and should continue to be reserved for only extraordinary circumstances. The court believes this to be the case even when alcohol or drug violations are in question.


The court wishes to pay deference to an experienced arbitrator and not overrule these decisions because it thinks it is appropriate to preserve the effectiveness and efficiency of this method of resolution in employee employer disputes. The court’s ruling in favor of upholding the arbitration decision was unanimous and that if employers wish for the court to intervene in cases such as this, the issue must be addressed in the next collective bargaining agreement.


According to the documents the court received related to the dispute in question, an employee of the state that worked as a maintenance worker at the University of Connecticut Health Center since 1998 was caught smoking marijuana while on the job in 2012. Without any prior employment issues, the employee suffered from anxiety and depression related to his divorce, and had a cancer scare. Doctors recommended marijuana to reduce his stress. Criminal charges in the case were dismissed, but the school dismissed him for violating UConn’s alcohol and drug free workplace policy, a decision that was challenged by the employee’s union.