Huge red flag: rehiring UConn employee who got high on state time

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Does someone have to get hurt before our state stands up for what’s right?

UConn Health Center appropriately fired an individual who put the public at risk by getting high while working a job that involves driving a state vehicle and operating motorized equipment.

But following an arbitration ruling in support of the employee’s case, the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the arbiter’s finding instructing UConn Health to rehire the employee who got high on state time in a state vehicle.

While the arbitration process may have its flaws, I expect the Supreme Court to right the wrongs of past rulings. Instead, the Supreme Court has opened the door to give state employees permission to openly break state law and violate workplace policy without having to worry about termination, apparently, unless somebody gets severely injured.

If that’s not a red flag then I don’t know what is.

In the Supreme Court’s weak legal rationale, the court argued that while the employee’s behavior was illegal, no law required punishment by dismissal, and therefore they had no right to challenge the arbiter’s decision which they must give deference to.

While the justices’ actions upheld one public policy, their decision completely contradicts substantial public policy and, perhaps most notably, it ignores the violation of a zero-tolerance policy for drug use in the workplace.

The Supreme Court also failed to give deference to the state and UConn Health who were in the best position to understand the significance of the employee’s behavior and its potential threat to public safety.

The court’s final ruling suggests that a zero-tolerance policy is actually quite tolerant. It also suggests that in order to fire a state employee for illegal drug use on the job, our state would need a law to actually require firing as the only penalty — a common sense penalty that’s already allowable under the law.

Such a suggestion is ridiculous and shows how dysfunctional the system has become.

The fact that this employee gets to keep his job at a time when thousands of hard-working state employees are being laid off is not fair. It’s not fair to the taxpayers and it’s not fair to the state employees who follow the law, work hard, and do their jobs well.

While the Supreme Court is legally required to give deference to arbitration awards, they have a much greater legal and moral obligation to protect the state of Connecticut’s strong public policy and safety concerns.

State Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven) is Senate Minority Leader.

What do you think?

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