The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently affirmed the dismissal of an employee’s lawsuit alleging that his former employer wrongfully terminated him for refusing to submit to a reasonable suspicion drug test. As a basis for his argument, the employee (who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes) claimed his actions could have been the result of his pain, so that his former employer did not have reasonable suspicion to send him for a drug test, in violation of the statute. The court, finding that “reasonable grounds [do not] have to be the only grounds,” pointed to the statute itself, stating: “The statute at issue clearly and unambiguously does not require actual knowledge that the employee is definitely under the influence, nor that the employee manifest the specific symptoms usually associated with being under the influence; the statute requires only that there be reasonable grounds to believe that the employee is under the influence of a controlled substance.” As such, the court held that an employer may terminate an employee for refusing to submit to a drug test based on reasonable suspicion.
This case, and so many others, serves as a reminder for employers not only to keep their policies and procedures updated to ensure compliance with state and federal laws, but also to follow them.
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