Connecticut Man Wins Marijuana Decision
Gregory Linhoff, a long-time maintainer for the University of Connecticut, was fired in 2012 after a police officer caught him smoking marijuana in a state vehicle at the start of his shift. Their rationale for doing so was that allowing him to keep his position would send the wrong message to fellow state employees.
With the help of his workers’ union, Connecticut Employees Union Independent, Linhoff fought the firing in court, maintaining that his termination was too harsh. He cited his record of having no previous disciplinary actions taken against him in his 15-year tenure as an employee as the reason to give him a second chance. Also included in his defense was the fact that he had inadvertently brought his glass pipe to work. Upon finding it and noticing its pungent smell, he decided to smoke the resin remaining to eliminate the odor.
An arbitrator for the Court agreed with Linhoff’s team and overturned the firing. Instead, the judge decided he should be suspended for six months without pay and submit to random drug tests for a year. The state’s attorney general was still not pleased, however, and Linhoff’s case went to the state’s high court.
The justices of the court unanimously sided with Linhoff. Their opinion reads:
The misconduct clearly falls within the public policy against illicit drug use in the workplace. Fortunately, however, the grievant’s misconduct did not result in any harm to persons or property. Moreover, given the nature of the grievant’s employment, the misconduct mainly created risks to his own safety, and not to that of vulnerable health center clients or other third parties.
The attorney general fired back, saying that Linhoff’s reinstatement “sends a message to state employees… that prohibited drug use on the job will be tolerated.” The justices remained resolute and retorted that the arbitrator’s terms are sufficiently punitive so as to deter other state employees from making the same mistake as Linhoff.
Included in Linhoff’s defense was the assertion that he was struggling with anxiety, depression, and a cancer scare and the cannabis use helped him with these problems. Moreover, Linhoff’s wife had recently filed for divorce; in short, the man was having a tough couple of months. While these circumstances do not condone his actions, they are forgivable in light of his otherwise spotless track record at the University.
The reinstatement and its terms outlined by the arbitrator were ordered by the Supreme Court of Connecticut. In addition to getting his job back, Linhoff will also receive back pay.