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Carle v. Red Thread Spaces, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 11, 2017

ROBERT CARLE, Plaintiff,
v.
RED THREAD SPACES, LLC, Defendant.

          RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Robert Carle worked as a foreman for defendant Red Thread Spaces, LLC, a company that installs office furniture and builds cubicles. After plaintiff tested positive for marijuana in 2013, the company suspended him without pay until he could provide a clean drug test. He never did so. He failed a second test. He adulterated the sample for his third test. And then he altogether failed to appear for the fourth scheduled test. Not surprisingly, the company terminated plaintiff's employment.

         Plaintiff has filed this lawsuit claiming that the company's termination of his employment was a violation of his rights under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). I do not agree. Accordingly, I will grant the company's motion for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are either agreed upon by both parties or presented in the light most favorable to plaintiff as the non-moving party. Plaintiff worked for defendant as an installation foreman, and he was responsible for driving delivery vehicles. Doc. #30, ¶ 3. He understood that his position qualified as “safety-sensitive” by the Connecticut Department of Labor, and that he was prohibited from using marijuana by defendant's Anti-Drug and Alcohol Misuse Policy (“drug policy”) and subject to random urinalysis drug testing. See Docs. #30, ¶¶ 5-7; #36-4 at 28.

         According to the drug policy, “any safety-sensitive employee who has tested positive for drug use or alcohol misuse during a random drug screen or alcohol test [must] be immediately suspended without pay and evaluated by a Substance Abuse Professional.” Doc. #31-2 at 20, 28- 29. The substance abuse professional might then make a recommendation of a course of substance abuse treatment or education, with which the employee must comply. See Id. at 20. If the professional has determined “employee compliance with all education and/or treatment recommendations, the employee may then submit to a return to duty drug and/or alcohol test. This testing must be performed and negative results must be on file with the [designated employer representative] prior to the employee returning to safety-sensitive duties. If a return to duty test is cancelled, the employee must submit to an additional test, and a negative result must be on file prior to returning to safety-sensitive duties.” Ibid.

         With respect to termination, the drug policy provides that “[a]ny safety-sensitive employee who has a confirmed positive drug screen result more than one time during any 36 month period will face immediate termination of employment.” Id. at 28. The policy does not exempt from the 36-month period any term of mandatory suspension on account of an initial positive drug screen result. In addition, “[a]ny safety sensitive employee who refuses to take a required drug test will be subject to immediate disciplinary action up to termination.” Ibid.

The policy provides several definitions for refusal to take a drug test:
An employee is considered to have refused a drug test if that employee: . . .
Does not report for any test . . . within the reasonable time frame set by [defendant] after being notified of the test; [or] . . .
Does not take an additional drug test when directed by [defendant] or the drug screen collector . . . .
Additionally, if the Medical Review Officer determines that the employee's urine specimen was adulterated or substituted, it would be considered a refusal to test.

Id. at 26. The drug policy defines “adulterated specimen” as a “urine specimen containing a substance that is not a normal constituent or containing an endogenous substance at a concentration that is not a normal physiological concentration.” Id. at 6.

         Defendant subjected plaintiff to a random drug test on November 6, 2013. Because plaintiff used marijuana on an almost daily basis, it came as no surprise that plaintiff tested positive for marijuana. See Doc. #30, ¶¶ 12-13. In accordance with the company's drug policy, defendant issued plaintiff a written advisory explaining that he was immediately suspended without pay, required him to see a substance abuse professional, and prohibited him from returning to work until he yielded a negative drug test. Docs. #30, ¶¶ 14-15; #31-2 at 53. Although defendant gave plaintiff paperwork indicating in handwriting that “FMLA has been approved, ” plaintiff had ...


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