Although employers are typically given the right to fire employees for their marijuana consumption, even when it is done after hours, Connecticut’s Supreme Court decided last week that a state worker was treated unfairly when he was fired for smoking pot on the job, and that he should be given the opportunity to return to his post.
In a unanimous vote of 7-to-0 the state’s highest court determined that Gregory Linhoof, who was terminated several years ago by the University of Connecticut when police caught him smoking marijuana in a vehicle owned by the state, should not have been fired for his actions, especially considering that the veteran worker had no other disciplinary blemishes on his record during the 15 years he was employed with the school.
Instead, the court said that Linhoff should receive a six-month suspension -- without pay -- and return to work under the condition of being subjected to random drug screens for the next year.
Throughout the case, state officials determined that giving Linhoof his walking papers was the only possible course of action that could be taken against his pot smoking offense. However, an arbitrator stepped in and determined that a six month unpaid suspension and regular drug testing for a year would be a sufficient enough punishment for an otherwise model employee. But the arbitrator’s opinion was eventually shot down in a Superior Court because a judge said the offense went against the grain of the state’s public policy.
Fortunately, Linhoof had the support of his union – the Connecticut Employees Union Independent SEIU – which dragged the case to the steps of the Supreme Court in hopes of getting the decision overturned – and it worked. All of the justices agreed that while “the misconduct at issue was completely unacceptable, and we do not condone it," Linhoof should be allowed to return to his old job.
"By the arbitrator's estimation, (Linhoff's) personal qualities and overall record indicate that he is a good candidate for a second chance," Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers wrote in the decision. "Moreover, 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."
Reports show that during the time of Linhoff’s termination, he was suffering from severe anxiety due to a recent divorce and a cancer scare. His attorney, Barbara Collins, said those were the reasons her client was smoking pot on the day he was caught by law enforcement.