The D.C. Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) ruled in favor of a government employee and medical marijuana (MMJ) patient who was fired after being suspected of intoxication in the workplace and who subsequently tested positive for marijuana in late 2020.
The Washington, D.C. administrative court reversed the termination of the employee and also, ordered the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) to reimburse the worker for all back pay and benefits.
The employee, who petitioned the termination in April 2021, argued that "OUC falsely accused her of being impaired because her eyes were red and she was talking quietly, prompting supervisors to initiate a reasonable suspicion referral and drug test that did show THC metabolites in her system,” reported Marijuana Moment.
The employee said her eyes may have been red due to personal problems that had prevented her from sleeping. Although tired, she was stable enough to do her job properly. In addition, she provided proof to both the employer and OEA that she was a registered MMJ patient. She added that she had not used cannabis on the day of the drug test although she affirmed using cannabis the weekend prior to getting tested.
What Does The Ruling Say?
Monica Dohnji, a senior administrative judge for OEA, said that "OUC was negligent in how it handled the process for reasonable suspicion of impairment from drugs."
In that supervisors allowed the worker to return to the floor to answer calls as part of her job, Dohnji noted "proves that neither supervisor had a reasonable suspicion” that the woman was impaired to an extent that “she could not perform her duties.” If OUC supervisors had reason to believe that the worker was incapacitated to the extent that she couldn't do her job, they should not have allowed her to return to work, Dohnji pointed out.
"Because Employee was allowed to perform her duties and did in fact adequately do so after being observed by her supervisors, I find that [the supervisors] did not reasonably believe that Employee’s ability to perform her job was impaired. As such, I further conclude that a reasonable suspicion referral was unwarranted,” the judge wrote in the ruling.
Marijuana Developments In DC
Recently, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a bill protecting employees from discrimination in the workplace based on their recreational or medical marijuana use.
The Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022 signed by Bowser prohibits employers from “firing, failing to hire, or taking other personnel actions against an individual for use of cannabis, participation in the District’s or another state’s medical cannabis program, or failure to pass an employer-required or requested cannabis drug test unless the position is designated safety-sensitive or for other enumerated.”
In July, Bowser also signed into law the Medical Marijuana Self-Certification Emergency Amendment Act of 2022. Under this law, Washington D.C. residents are allowed to self-certify as medical marijuana patients, without a doctor’s recommendation and buy cannabis from licensed retailers.
Meanwhile in other states...
In California, a proposed bill passed through both houses of the legislature would prohibit people from losing their jobs for smoking marijuana outside of work. Specifically, it would prohibit companies from punishing those who fail a certain type of drug test. Among other marijuana measures awaiting Gov. Newsom's signature is this legislation that would provide job protections for people who smoke marijuana off the clock.
Recently, the New York Police Department (NYPD) announced it will stop randomly testing police officers or job applicants for cannabis. What’s more, at the same time, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) announced it is considering a change to its cannabis testing policy. The FDNY's new drug testing guidelines are expected soon to be released.
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