What are my rights if I got fired for taking prescription medication from a spinal injury?

I got hired at a CBD company less than 30 days ago. I have a pre-existing spinal injury that I informed them about after I was hired. I was issued a drug test that I passed to get the job, meaning that the opioids didn’t show up. I take the prescription pain killers rarely but recently I have had to take more due to the physical stresses of my job. I briefly mentioned to my manager about my struggles with oxycodone. She didn’t really say anything about it. I had to leave work once due to severe pain and my boss sent me home. Then just yesterday, I felt sick from my oxycodone which doesn’t happen often, and told my boss what was going on. I said I was trying not to take them as much, as they can make me sick, but they are the only thing that really helps with my pain so that I am able to function, especially at work where I am standing and sitting for long periods of time. As I was telling my manager about this, she compared me to her drug addict friends who work their hardest to get clean. This seemed like a very radical accusation and comparison since I take them for severe pain only. Then she said it was too late for that. She fired me the next day for being on drugs and said I was a liability for getting sick, implying that I had an addiction. She fired me in an open area where some of my co-workers were at their stations. It was quite humiliating.

Asked on September 27, 2018 under Personal Injury, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Based on what you write, the medication is affecting your performance at work: e.g. " I felt sick from oxycodone." You also told your boss that you are taking a powerful addictive opiod more frequently and need it to get through work. Oxycodone affects the central nervous system and can potentially cause hallucinations, confusion, fainting and dizziness; it also can have, with prolonged or heavy usage, detrimental effects the circulatory and respiratory systems. In short, it creates a risk of injury to you or others at work and affects work performance. An employer may terminate an employee for taking a substance which poses risks and affects performance at or before work, so that the employee is under its influence at work: alcoholics, for example, may be terminated for being intoxicated at work; people using medical marijuana may be fired for being hight at work. Based on the behavior you demonstrated, what you told your boss, and the risk from oxycodone on work performance, behavior, and health, the employer may terminate you. They do not need to allow you to be a potential source of liability or disruptive/unproductive influence at work.

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