California Employment Drug Testing Wrongful Termination Case

Explained by a Los Angeles Labor Lawyer

A California company with a zero-tolerance drug policy submitted all workers to random drug screenings. One of the men whose test results came back positive for marijuana use was notified of his test results. He then told his employer’s human resources department that it is not surprising that he tested positive for marijuana, since he has a medical prescription for the drug for back pain. The company subsequently fired him for having marijuana in his system and disregarded the needed prescription.

The man claimed he was wrongfully terminated from this job and filed suit against his company. The Court ruled that the company was in the right to fire the man, because it is against federal law to possess or use marijuana despite state rules allowing him to do so. An appeals court upheld the ruling. The man took his case to the California Supreme Court.

California Labor Code

Workers are employed in California at will unless otherwise specified. If a contract exists between an employer and an employee, that contract must be adhered to. If there is no contract, the employee may quit at any time and the employer may end the work at any time. Pursuant to the California Labor Code, work agreements in the state can be terminated by:

  • Contract expiration
  • The business ceases to operate
  • The employee dies
  • The employee can no longer work

If the owner of a California company dies and if employees don’t have a shareholder stake in the business, the employment of the worker ceases. However, if there is a succession owner in place and employment is not at will, the employee must continue working to keep the business going as planned. The succession owner must then compensate the employees exactly as outlined in the employee’s contract with the previous owner.

Termination Compensation

Workers in California have a right to be paid for work completed as outlined in the California Labor Code. If an employee is dismissed from work, he has a right to be paid for the work completed up to the time he is dismissed. If an at-will employee in California quits a job, he has a right to be paid for all the completed work.

If an employee cannot work for a period of time, the employer cannot withhold more than the proportionate earnings for the time worked. For example, if a worker misses half a day at work, the employer must pay him at least 50 percent of what he would earn for the entire day and no less.

A qualified Los Angeles employment attorney can assist businesses or employees through the finer points of California labor laws and can help these employers or workers file the needed claims.



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