Massachusetts Worker Fired for Weed Use Sparks Employee Protection Proposal
Responding to a pair of firings by the food service company Sodexo over off-the-clock pot use, Senator Jason Lewis is looking to protect Massachusetts workers from unfair drug tests.
Published on July 10, 2019

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When Leon Hagins cut his finger while working his job at the cafeteria inside of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, he didn’t think much of the injury. The laceration was no bigger than a paper cut, and with a band-aid and a new pair of gloves, Hagins figured he would be back to work in a matter of minutes. But when he went to take care of the finger, Hagins’ manager told him that company policy required employees to pass a drug test after any injury. After testing positive for marijuana, he was fired.

Hagins is just one in a long line of controversial dismissals across the legal weed landscape, with many employers ignoring local legalization laws and continuing to perform drug tests that discriminate against legal cannabis consumption. According to the Boston Globe, in Massachusetts specifically, Hagins’ former employer, the food service provider Sodexo, has been involved in at least two high-profile firings in the two and a half years since the Bay State legalized weed.

And while states like Nevada have passed post-legalization laws that specifically ban businesses from testing for cannabis and using consumption as an excuse for termination, those same protections do not exist in most cannabis-friendly states. In states where employee drug tests are still allowed, the screenings are often discriminatory in their implementation, with some employers requiring only low-level employees to submit samples.

“The whole thing — going in there, [urinating] in a cup — it’s demeaning,” Hagins told the Globe. “They made us do it, but the guys up in the office don’t have to do nothing.”

Responding directly to the firing of Hagins and Bernadette Coughlin — another Sodexo employee axed for legal, off-the-clock cannabis use — Massachusetts legislator Jason Lewis has filed a bill that would prevent Bay State businesses from policing employees’ private lives, including the legal consumption of marijuana.

“It is wrong and unfair for people like Bernadette Coughlin and Leon Hagins to be fired for using cannabis on their own personal time since this is now a legal drug like alcohol,” Lewis told the Globe.

Lewis’ bill is currently pending in the state judiciary committee and could potentially see a full House and Senate vote later this year. But in the meantime, Hagins has had to find another job.

“I’m extremely disturbed that a company could or would fire someone for using a drug that’s legal in Massachusetts,” State Senator Jamie Eldridge, who supports the bill, told the Globe. “It’s definitely something that the Legislature needs to address this session.”

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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