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Disputes over drug use and employment can be complicated

Employers across Florida often go to great lengths to develop and enforce their workplace policies. These policies are typically set to protect the business itself from certain adverse events. They can also be important in protecting employees, as is the case with policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment.

In theory, as long as these policies are lawful and enforced appropriately, they should be fairly straightforward. However, there are many instances when a dispute arises that is not immediately resolved by referring to employment guidelines or handbooks.

For example, a worker in one state was surprised to learn that behavior outside of work could actually lead to his termination. Reports indicate that the man, who is a registered user of medical marijuana, was fired after a drug test at work came back positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Even though this happened in a state where it is not illegal to use medical marijuana, the federal laws still maintain that marijuana use is illegal. The man was fired based on his former employer's "zero tolerance" policy.

The man challenged his termination and argued that he was using marijuana in accordance with state laws. He further stated that he never used the drug at work and was not impaired on the job. However, the state's Supreme Court ruled that the company was within its rights to terminate because the law does not explicitly protect users of legalized medical marijuana.

Florida employers and employees can learn an important lesson from this case: There are many gray areas when it comes to behaviors that are grounds for termination, especially when they occur outside of the workplace. In these situations, legal action and court hearings can be essential to interpret the laws and make a decision on an issue which may have no clear answer.

Employers have the right to protect themselves and their companies through workplace policies as long as they do not infringe on the rights of employees. However, when there is not necessarily a clear line between the two, disputes can arise and legal action may be unavoidable.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Employers Can Fire Medical Marijuana Patients For Private, Off-Duty Use, Colo. Supreme Court Rules," Matt Ferner, June 15, 2015

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