Thursday, June 18, 2015

In which a wrongful termination claim goes up in smoke

I have previously noted that private employers can fire you for all sorts of reasons. For example, in Florida, Michael Italie was fired for being a Socialist Workers Party member - and the American Civil Liberties Union had to inform Italie that there was nothing that could be done about it.

I've uncovered another termination case, in which several courts in Colorado - leading up to Colorado's Supreme Court - agreed that Dish Network had the right to fire Brandon Coats.

The issue, according to Courthouse News Service, boils down to this policy of Dish Network:

"As a national employer, Dish remains committed to a drug-free workplace and compliance with federal law."

Notice that word "federal" in the statement? There's a conflict here, since in the state of Colorado, medical marijuana use (along with some non-medical uses of marijuana) is legal.

Yet just because something is legal, that doesn't necessarily mean that an employer needs to permit the legal activity. Using another example, it's legal for me to worship my deity of choice; however, workplaces may impose restrictions on such worship within the workplace.

In the case of Brandon Coats, who only used the medical marijuana after work hours - not before or during work - this meant that Dish Network could administer a drug test, and fire him if he failed.

As I noted above, the case was heard by several courts in Colorado, all of which agreed that Dish could terminate Coats.

At that point, Coats' lawyer saw no point in appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court:

"You need the Colorado Supreme Court to stand up for its own laws," Evans told the Denver Post. "The U.S. Supreme Court is not going to do that."

Of course, there is one power that is even more powerful than the power of the courts - the power of the consumer.

If you're a Dish Network customer, and Dish asks you if you want to purchase a Cheech and Chong movie for viewing, ask yourself - do I really want to do that?

If you're a Dish Network customer in Colorado, do you really want to do business with a company that ignores your laws?
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