I recently wrote about the case of Brandon Coats v. Dish Network in another blog about employers, drug testing, and medical marijuana. This article is not to discuss that case or medical marijuana, instead this article is designed to point out a few of the factors in that case that employers must consider in their employment policies. Specifically, what happens if an employer is sued by a former employee? The Brandon Coats case involves an employee who was fired by his employer Dish Network on June 07, 2010, for testing positive marijuana, even though the consumption of marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado and Coats was using the substance for medicinal purposes. Ultimately, Mr. Coats sued Dish Network and the Colorado Supreme Court did not decide the case until June 15, 2015.
This is not a misprint, this case took over 5 years to get resolved and Mr. Coats could still possibly file a writ of certiorari and appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court.
Five years! What this shows is that litigation is extremely long and expensive. Think about where you were 5 years ago. Now think about where you are now in 2015. Throughout that entire timeframe the litigation with Mr. Coats and Dish Network has been going on. Think about what a five year battle with a former employee could do to your business. Whether the financial impact it will have due to high legal bills, or the time impact it will have on your management team (as they will need to be deposed and/or participate in the litigation). Litigation can cripple your business. As a frame of reference, in June, 2010 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were gearing up for a season of Raheem Morris coaching Josh Freeman and company. Five years later the Bucs now have their third coach (Morris, Schiano, and Smith) and are preparing for their fifth starting quarterback (Freeman, Johnson, Glennon, McCown, and Winston). The name for the home ice of the Tampa Bay Lightning has changed 3 times (St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Bay Times Forum, and now Amalie Arena). Lastly, the Tampa Bay Rays have used 22 different starting pitchers to start games for them (you’ll have to take my word on that one).
Most employers cannot afford to fund a five year litigation with an employee. However, once litigation starts there is no certainty as to how long it will go on. If one party will not settle and continues to appeal, it is possible that the litigation can go on for even longer than five years. This why it is very important that employers of all sizes review that company’s policies, and sit down with an attorney to review them. Very often small details in employment policies and procedures are the cause of large litigations. If employers develop the right systems they can reduce the risk of being the party who must pay to defend the case. We advise you to contact Hunter Business Law to review all of your company employment policies and evaluate your company’s systems.
By Adam Hersh