Quirky World: Ruling on marijuana-using worker up in smoke

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Quirky World: Ruling on marijuana-using worker up in smoke

USA: A Connecticut state worker fired after he was caught smoking marijuana on the job was punished too harshly and should get his job back, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

Gregory Linhoff was fired from his maintenance job at the University of Connecticut Health Centre in Farmington in 2012 after a police officer caught him smoking pot in a state-owned vehicle. He had no previous disciplinary problems since being hired in 1998 and had received favourable job promotions, according to his union. He was arrested, but the charges were later dismissed.

State officials said firing the New Hartford resident was the only appropriate penalty for his conduct and not doing so would send a bad message to other employees. An arbitrator disagreed and overturned the firing, saying Linhoff instead should be suspended without pay for six months and be subject to random drug testing for a year after he returned to work.

The state appealed and a Superior Court judge overturned the arbitrator’s decision on the grounds that it violated Connecticut’s public policy against marijuana use. Linhoff’s union, the Connecticut Employees Union Independent SEIU, appealed the judge’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

All seven justices agreed that the lower court judge was wrong to overturn the arbitrator’s ruling, saying that while state policy on drug use in the work place allows for firing workers it does not require it. Justices also said that judicial second-guessing of arbitration awards is uncommon and should be reserved only for extraordinary circumstances.

“The misconduct at issue was completely unacceptable, and we do not condone it,” Chief Justice Chase T Rogers wrote in the decision.

“By the arbitrator’s estimation, (Linhoff’s) personal qualities and overall record indicate that he is a good candidate for a second chance. Moreover, the discipline the arbitrator imposed was appropriately severe, and sends a message to others who might consider committing similar misconduct that consequences will result.”

Secret service

USA: About 30 people have paid their respects to a woman they never met after responding to a call for attendees for a suburban New York funeral at which no one was expected to show up.

The Journal News reports strangers served as Francine Stein’s pallbearers and also helped bury her during the cemetery service.

Stein died at the age of 83. Rabbi Elchanan Weinbach officiated the service and says there was no eulogy because he didn’t know anything about the woman.

He learned at the cemetery that Stein was a musician and had taught at the Julliard School.

The call for volunteers came on Facebook from Weinbach’s daughter.

One attendee said she came to the service as a simple act of “human decency”.

Furtive fugitive


Authorities say an “elderly man” found at a Massachusetts home actually was a 31-year-old fugitive wearing a disguise.

Police went to a house on Cape Cod last Thursday looking for Shaun Miller, who’d been a fugitive since April when he and several others were indicted on heroin distribution charges. Police say when they ordered a man there to come outside, an elderly man emerged.

The US Attorney’s office says when officers realised the man was Miller they pulled off his “realistic disguise” and placed him under arrest. Nearly $30,000 in cash and two loaded guns were found in the house.

Ambulance absconder


Police say a woman who missed the last bus for the night is accused of stealing an ambulance to get home from an Ohio hospital.

Court documents filed in Hamilton Municipal Court in Cincinnati say 43-year-old Lisa Carr is accused of getting into an ambulance that a driver had left running and driving to her home in suburban Cincinnati. The driver apparently had left the ambulance to go inside the hospital with a patient.

Police say the Springfield Township woman was arrested after a short pursuit. They say she told them she took the ambulance because she had missed her bus home.

Liquor licence


A grocery store in Pennsylvania has become the first supermarket since Prohibition to sell wine in the state.

A Giant Eagle store in suburban Pittsburgh began selling wine on Friday. Only state-owned liquor stores or kiosks had been allowed to sell wine since the nationwide ban on alcohol that lasted from 1920 to 1933.

Under a new law, customers can buy up to three litres of wine to go from businesses that hold restaurant or hotel liquor licenses. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board says it has approved more than 80 supermarkets, restaurants, and hotels to sell wine to go.

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