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Colorado Supreme Court Says Employees Can Be Fired For Marijuana Use

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Brandon Coats works on his computer at his home in Denver in December 2012.
Ed Andrieski, AP
Brandon Coats works on his computer at his home in Denver in December 2012.

Now that marijuana use is legal in Colorado, can employees be fired for lighting up a joint in their free time?

That was the question before the Colorado Supreme Court this term and on Monday it came to a conclusion: Yes, you can get fired.

The case was brought by Brandon Coats, who sued Dish Network after it fired him for using his "state-licensed ... medical marijuana at home during nonworking hours."

Coats said when Dish Network fired him, the company violated a state law that bars an employer from firing any worker over any "lawful" outside-of-work activity.

The court decided that the definition of "lawful" was broader than state law. It concluded:

"The term 'lawful' as it is used in section 24-34-402.5 is not restricted in any way, and we decline to engraft a state law limitation onto the term. Therefore, an activity such as medical marijuana use that is unlawful under federal law is not a 'lawful' activity under section 24-34-402.5."

In other words, Coats was legally fired.

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