Massachusetts Woman Suing Sodexo Over Drug Test Termination

A growing wave of cannabis legalization has managed gain momentum and spread across the U.S. for several years now, but even in states where cannabis is legal for recreational or medicinal purposes, the laws in place don’t always guarantee workplace protections for those who decide to use marijuana.

55-year-old Bernadette Coughlin of Methuen, Massachusetts likes to use cannabis infrequently to relax after working her administrative job at Holy Family Hospital with Sodexo, a Paris-based food service and management corporation.

On Wednesday, May 30, Coughlin fell at work, though she initially checked herself over and didn’t feel the need to report the fall at the time, considering it to be merely a freak accident.

But after returning to work from a long weekend, the woman was still feeling some pain, so she decided to tell her boss who then ordered her to take a drug test. When the test results came back, Coughlin was suspended before receiving a letter of termination on June 11.

Coughlin was shocked to have gotten fired from a job that she was recruited and relocated for for the legal use of cannabis on her own time. She says that she planned to stay with the company until she retired.

“If I have to go to work the next day, I never drink,” Coughlin told the Eagle-Tribune, explaining that she doesn’t want to feel hungover or groggy the next day. “I take two puffs off a vape pen, and that’s it. I can’t believe they just cut me loose just like that, for that.”

Coughlin’s attorney says that her marijuana use in her own time did not violate company policy because it didn’t affect her job performance or workplace safety.

“Sodexo complies with the law and recognizes that this is an evolving legal and social issue,” wrote the company’s North American public relations director Enrico Dinges in an email to the Eagle-Tribune. “As many employers are currently doing, we are evaluating our policies in light of the changing landscape.

Despite being initially told by Sodexo that they would be challenging her worker’s compensation claim, Coughlin did receive a check from the corporation’s insurance provider this week. Under her terms of employment with Sodexo, Coughlin’s wrongful termination suit will be arbitrated privately rather than in civil court.

( Image: Lindsay Fox )