Brandon Coats v. DISH Network

Michael D. Evans

Case Conclusion Date:September 30, 2014

Practice Area:Employment / Labor

Outcome:Pending Colorado Supreme Court Decision

Description:Next Tuesday September 30th, 2014 at 9am at 2 E. 14th Street, 4th Floor, Denver there will be 1 hour (total) of oral arguments in Brandon Coats v. DISH Network, LLC in front of the Colorado Supreme Court regarding whether Colorado state law (C.R.S. 24-34-402.5) will protect a quadriplegic patient-employee (Brandon Coats) from having his non-hazardous employment terminated (customer service call center) by a Colorado-based employer (DISH) solely for his use of physician-recommended medical marijuana, in his own home, after work, in compliance with the Colorado Constitution (Art. XVIII, s.14). This case has been covered for 4 years locally, as well as nationally on CNN, NY Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR – Washington D.C., Washington Post, Rolling Stone, and Fox Business to name a few. It has national appeal because Colorado, which has the most powerful marijuana legislation in the world, will be tested with a very sympathetic plaintiff (the epitome of the other hundreds of thousands of patient-employees), a Colorado employer, and the “perfect storm” of facts (no impairment or use at work in a non-hazardous occupation) applying to a very simple legal issue. It is the first and only case in the country dealing with this issue. Coats through his long-time attorney Michael D. Evans will be urging the Supreme Court to craft a well thought out decision that finally addresses and deals with marijuana use (not avoiding the issue), offers a progressive and sustainable long term solution (not simulate the 18th Amend. on prohibition), does not violate current federal law, and offers guidance and a win-win for employees and employers. The interests of both parties do not have to be mutually exclusive – especially under the facts and situations of this case. If federal and state law can peaceably co-exist, then so can employees and employers in certain (reasonable) situations. A more practical and reasonable solution can and must be achieved instead of forcing a mutually exclusive choice between health care and employment for hundreds of thousands of people. Colorado’s Constitution cannot just be meant for just the unemployed. Employees who comply with state law, should be protected by state law. DISH Network and the Colorado Attorney General are expected to make arguments that fall outside the actual facts of this case as a scare tactic, or incorrectly argue that federal law preempts state law. In any case, their interests are only to protect employers (and for the AG, to keep taxing marijuana), not employee-patients. Michael Evans will fully address why these arguments fail, are contradictory, or do not apply to this specific case (i.e. no at-will employment, no company policy, no “drug-free” workplace issues) on September 30th. Those interested are encouraged to attend the oral arguments and make an educated decision for themselves. The “reefer madness” tactic will soon wear out its welcome. There is a lot more to this case than meets the eye, and once the facts and law is intelligently understood, even the most conservative employer-friendly individuals can side with Mr. Coats’ position. On Monday, January 27, 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed en banc to review the Court of Appeals decision for Mr. Coats case for the following 2 issues: Whether the Lawful Activities Statute, C.R.S. section 24-34-402.5, protects employees from discretionary discharge for lawful use of medical marijuana outside the job where the use does not affect job performance. Whether the Medical Marijuana Amendment makes the use of medical marijuana “lawful” and confers a right to use medical marijuana to persons lawfully registered with the state.