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article imageU.S. court rules in favour of man fired for smoking pot at work

By Marcus Hondro     Aug 19, 2016 in World
Smoking marijuana at work just got a seal of...near approval from a U.S. court. A state court in Connecticut has just given a man back his job after he'd been fired for imbibing pot while at work but his punishment remains harsh.
Marijuana in car
The state's Supreme Court ruled in Hartford this week that Gregory Linhoff, should be given his job back. In 2012 Mr. Linhoff had been caught smoking marijuana by a police officer in a work vehicle, a car belonging to the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, where he'd been employed since 1998.
At the time, he was arrested and charged but those charges were dropped. But his employer saw fit to terminate his employment for the offence.
Mr. Linhoff's union, the Connecticut Employees Union Independent SEIU, pointed out he had had no other disciplinary events in his tenure at the health center and his reviews had been uniformly good. It also notes he'd been under stress when the offense occurred, his marriage broke up and he was undergoing a cancer scare.
The health center considered the offense grave and argued that not to fire him sent the wrong message to other employees. However an arbitrator disagreed with the employer and re-instated Mr. Linhoff, saying he should be suspended without pay for 6 months and subjected to random drug testing for a period of one year.
Pot case to high court
But the employer went further, they took the case to Superior Court — and won. The Superior Court said Mr. Linhoff's actions violated the state's public policy, a policy against marijuana consumption while working.
So the union went to Connecticut's high court. The court said in a 7-0 ruling today that state policy does forbid smoking pot at work but it does not require an employee be fired for doing so. Their ruling said an arbitrator is the form for such disputes to be resolved and reinstated the arbiter's decision.
"The misconduct at issue was completely unacceptable, and we do not condone it," the Supreme Court's ruling reads. "By the arbitrator's estimation (Linhoff's) personal qualities and overall record indicate that he is a good candidate for a second chance."
"Moreover," the justices' opinion added. "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."
The court's ruling also noted that the "grievant’s misconduct did not result in any harm to persons or property. Moreover, given the nature of the grievant’s employment, the misconduct mainly created risks to his own safety, and not to that of vulnerable health center clients or other third parties."
Mr. Linhoff must now be given his job back, including back pay.
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