Monday, October 15, 2012

Favorite Firings Series: Bringing Pot Brownies to Work

In my last “favorite firing” post, I asked “what was this employer thinking?” This time, my question is, “What was that employee thinking?”

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported recently that a bus driver, whom I will call Driver MJ, brought double-fudge Betty Crocker honey brownies laced with marijuana to work and gave them to other bus drivers. Driver MJ was fired after an administrative hearing.

In the places where  I worked, this would have been known as a termination for being “too stupid to work here,” hence my question, “What was he thinking?” Most likely, Driver MJ wasn’t thinking, or was only thinking while under the influence.

Not only did Driver MJ lose his job, he faces criminal prosecution.

So this is a "favorite firing" because the employee's behavior was wrong on so many levels.

The more interesting questions in this situation involved the actions the employer took with respect to the three drivers who consumed the brownies.

The Facts:  When Driver MJ brought the homemade brownies to work, at least one of the other drivers allegedly asked whether the treats had any pot in them. Driver MJ said they did not.

When the three other drivers later realized the brownies had in fact been laced and they became dizzy, they stopped driving their vehicles and called for replacements. Thus, these drivers acted appropriately once they realized their driving was impaired.

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System then placed the three drivers on paid leaves of absence and told them they could not return to work unless they submitted to drug counseling, as federal regulations of transportation workers require. One of the drivers accepted these terms.

The other two refused the terms for the paid leave, not wanting to undergo counseling because they had not intentionally taken the drugs.  These two drivers were put on unpaid leave.

Ultimately, the Federal Transit Administration waived the requirement that these employees receive drug counseling, and they were permitted to return to work

The Moral: Driver MJ caused far more problems than he anticipated, not only for himself, but for his co-workers. The other drivers did exactly the right thing and stopped driving, which prevented any injuries to themselves, their passengers, and the public.

The Metropolitan Transit System also investigated and took prompt action, which was appropriate. Some commentators have questioned why the MTS the drivers on an unpaid leave while pursuing the drug counseling issue. But based on the articles I’ve read, the MTS acted in accordance with federal regulations for transit workers.

Still, the right outcome in this situation is what happened: The regulations were waived.

If you had been one of these drivers, would you have objected to the counseling on principle, or been more concerned about keeping your job?

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Please send me ideas for stories on workplace terminations for this series. If you have an interesting situation, please email me or leave a comment below. But please disguise the facts to protect the innocent (and not-so-innocent) unless the situation is well-publicized, and then include a link to support your story.  I will only publish verified stories.

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