Can Your Employer Discipline You for Off-Premises Recreational Use of Marijuana?

Apr 3 2024

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda.

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh. What are we gonna chat about today?

Goodbaum: Well, I wanna talk about marijuana but in a way that is about employment law, okay?

Recreational marijuana is legal in Connecticut, and I think a lot of employees think, “All right, recreational marijuana, cool. I can use it at work. I can be high at work, no problem.” Is that true?

DeMatteis: No, it certainly isn’t true. Let’s just take a common sense approach to start, right? Alcohol is legal, but that doesn’t mean that you could go to work and just be impaired and unable to do your job, whether you are consuming alcohol or high on marijuana. So, we wouldn’t suggest everyone be running to work smoking a joint at this point. That wouldn’t be the best practice.

But there is a question about what if someone is using recreational marijuana off-premises. And the answer to that generally turns on whether or not there’s an employer policy in place that prohibits that action. So, an employer might have a policy that says, “Look, any use of marijuana, whether it’s on our premises or off our premises, is prohibited.” Period. And if they do and you violate that particular policy, then they could lawfully terminate you or anyone else for violating that policy.

There are some classifications of employees that are exempt from this general rule about the use of off-site marijuana. Think about firefighters, EMTs, police, correctional officers, educational workers, construction and utility workers. Think about people that are using, you know, high voltage electricity or high powered construction equipment, those in healthcare and social services. Even in the absence of a specific written policy that prohibits the use of off-premises marijuana, those folks can absolutely be terminated if they test positive for marijuana at work.

But, if you do not fall into one of those classes of employees and there is not a specific written policy in place that prohibits the use of off-site or off-premises marijuana and you are terminated because a drug test is taken or performed and you test positive for the drug, yet there wasn’t any reasonable suspicion that you were using while at work, that may be a violation of the law. And if you are terminated under those terms, you might be entitled to back pay or front pay or maybe even reinstatement to your job. So again, really fact-specific, and it depends on what you do as an employee.

Now, there is a different classification of laws that protects the use of medical marijuana. Think about the Americans with Disabilities Act, our state counterpart the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, and then also the Palliative Use of Marijuana Act, also known as PUMA, which may require certain employees that have a medical marijuana card or are using marijuana, of course for medical purposes, and that may apply a little bit differently to them at work.

As always, if you have questions about these things, give us a call. But don’t run to work using marijuana, and expect your boss to be okay with it.

Goodbaum: You got it, Amanda. I’m not gonna do that, thanks for clarifying. Hope this is helpful to you all. Take care, we’ll see you next time.

DeMatteis: See you.

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josh goodbaum discusses recreational marijuana usage outside of connecticut workplaces

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