Arkansas Hospital System Rescinds Job Offer Based on Positive Drug Test

Northwest Arkansas Hospitals, LLC (NWAH) offered plaintiff (Balance Reed) a position but subsequently revoked the offer after Reed tested positive for marijuana.

In February 2020, Reed applied for a position at the hospital which he contends was not identified as "safety-sensitive" on the application. Reed contends that the written employment offer he later received also did not list the position as safety-sensitive. Upon accepting the position in writing (and the hospital acknowledging the acceptance in writing), Reed divulged that he was a medical marijuana patient and that use of the substance would be revealed via a drug test. Reed tested positive for marijuana a few days before his June 1 start date and was informed that he was ineligible for hire under company policy.

Reed alleged that NWAH violated Amendment 98 of the Arkansas Constitution on behalf of a class of people who applied to work with the NWAH but were denied employment solely because of their medical marijuana patient status within the year before the lawsuit was filed. Amendment 98 prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants based on medical marijuana patient status. Reed's counsel contends that NWAH did not designate in writing that this position was classified as "safety-sensitive" as required by the constitution.

In a motion for judgment on the pleadings, NWAH asked the court to dismiss Reed's suit in rejection of his argument that the position for which he applied was not designated in writing as safety-sensitive. The hospital system argued that the position description noted that the role might expose an individual to "safety sensitive situations," which may require the ability to handle emergencies, manage crises and be responsible for ensuring patient care. NWAH further contended that the statute does not require employers to state in either the application or the offer letter that a position is "safety-sensitive" before or after extending a conditional job offer.

Employers are encouraged to carefully review all documents provided to applicants that address safety-related requirements associated with a position.

Posted: June 15, 2021

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