An injured worker who was fired after a positive marijuana drug test can’t move forward with a wrongful termination suit since the drug is still illegal under federal law, according to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Although marijuana use is legal in the state, the court found it is still illegal under federal law so there’s no private right of action. Also, employers in the state are still authorized to prohibit marijuana use.
Wasn’t impaired at work, no use in 24 hours before shift
Danny Ceballos was working as a table games dealer at Palace Station, a casino in Las Vegas, for more than a year. At the end of his shift on June 25, 2020, Ceballos slipped and fell in an employee breakroom.
Casino security responded to assist Ceballos before requiring him to submit to a drug test. The test came back positive for marijuana.
Ceballos wasn’t intoxicated or impaired during his June 25 shift and he didn’t use marijuana in the 24 hours before that shift. He’d been at home, not at work, when he used the recreational marijuana that produced the positive test result. He was terminated by the casino on July 16, 2020.
Ceballos sued, and a district court dismissed his complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” He appealed, challenging the dismissal and claiming his marijuana use complied with state law.
State ‘specifically authorizes’ employers to restrict use
The Nevada Supreme Court agreed with the trial court judge who said there was a difference between “lawful use in this state” and legal under Nevada law. In short, while marijuana could be used legally in the state, Nevada follows federal law which still says marijuana is an illegal substance.
Secondly, the high court found Palace Station was within its rights to terminate Ceballos’ employment over the positive drug test since Nevada “specifically authorizes employers to adopt and enforce workplace policies prohibiting or restricting such use.”
The court went on to say, “If the Legislature meant to require employers to accommodate employees using recreational marijuana outside the workplace but who thereafter test positive at work, it would have done so.”