Stoned, Fired Employee Deserves Second Chance, Says CT Supreme Court

State worker fired for blazing sets up higher court showdown.

The Connecticut Supreme Court overturned a previous ruling against a man who was fired from his job for smoking trees in a state vehicle. The high court agreed unanimously, siding with the labor union that represented Gregory Linhoff, a member of the maintenance staff at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. The union felt, and the court agreed, that Linhoff deserves a do-over, and should get his job back. 

Linhoff was canned in 2012 after police caught him blazing down during work hours. The worker, whose previous work record was reportedly exemplary, was arrested––though charges were dropped after Linhoff flipped his dealer. Despite that cooperation, he was fired for his stony actions, which allegedly violated the health center's code of conduct. Linhoff's his sacking was to serve as a message to any other state employees who might plan to get high while on the job.

An arbitrator said Linhoff's punishment was too harsh, and recommended a reduced punishment involving a six-month suspension and random drug testing. This decision was overturned by a Superior Court judge, who ruled that the worker's firing should stand. It did, until this week's state Supreme Court reversal. 

Most times so far, when an employee is fired for lighting up on the job––state worker or otherwise––there is little to dispute in the sacking. Linhoff's case is an anomaly in that he got his job back at all.

The reinstated maintenance worker's attorney told The Cannabist, “Perhaps as important, the court acknowledged, whether directly or indirectly that there is a public policy of rehabilitation and second chances, which should be recognized in the work place." 

Earlier this year, employees of a California Pizza Hut were caught blazing down on the clock. After a video of the crew ripping bongs in the kitchen went viral, they were immediately fired. The corporate pizza chain responsible for stuffed crust, is apparently not a believer in second chances. 

Going back further, to June of 2015 the Colorado State Supreme Court, where both medical and recreational marijuana consumption are legal, ruled that employers have the right to fire workers who test positive for cannabis, even if the weed is legally prescribed medical marijuana and consumed while off duty.

So look for an upcoming battle of the state supreme courts, Connecticut versus Colorado edition.