The Nevada Supreme Court ruled Thursday that an injured worker fired after testing positive for marijuana did not have a viable wrongful-termination claim against his employer, in part because the drug remains illegal under federal law.
The Supreme Court also said laws allowing the sale and use of recreational cannabis in Nevada also include provisions that allow employers to enforce and enforce policies prohibiting drug use outside of work hours, according to the decision in Ceballos v. NP Palace LLCfiled in Carson City.
Danny Ceballos worked as a table game dealer at Palace Station in Las Vegas for more than a year. Towards the end of his shift on June 25, 2020, he slipped and fell in the employee break room. Casino security responded, first assisting Mr. Ceballos and then demanded that he submit to a drug test. The test came back positive for marijuana, and on July 16, 2020, Palace Station terminated his employment.
Mr. Ceballos sued Palace Station, alleging a violation of state private right of action law in favor of an employee who is terminated from employment for engaging in “the lawful use in this state of a product off the employer’s premises during the employee’s off-duty time hours.”
A circuit judge dismissed the complaint, reasoning that because federal law criminalizes possession of marijuana in Nevada, its use is not “lawful.”
The Nevada Supreme Court agreed with the trial judge that the phrase “lawful use in this state” does not simply mean lawful under state law.
The Supreme Court’s reasoning was similar to that of the Colorado Supreme Court in the 2015 decision allowing Dish Network to fire Brandon Coats for his medical cannabis use. The Colorado court said state laws intended to protect workers from being fired for “lawful” recreational activities did not apply to cannabis because it is illegal under federal law.
The Nevada court further found that Ceballo’s termination did not violate public policy.
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