Federal Court Decision Suggests That Employees Can Challenge Employers’ Policies on Off-Duty Conduct


Last year, we reported on a federal court decision, Rodrigues v. The Scotts Co., which suggested that an employer can be liable for terminating an employee for engaging in legal but unhealthy off-duty conduct. In Rodrigues, the employer maintained a “wellness plan”, which prohibited employees from smoking cigarettes both on and off the job in order to reduce anticipated medical insurance costs. The plaintiff was fired after he tested positive for nicotine as part of a drug screen. In its original February 2008 decision, the federal court held that the plaintiff had asserted viable claims for invasion of privacy and under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) for unlawful interference with his right to benefits under Scotts’ health insurance plan.

Last week, the Court issued a further decision in the case, dismissing both of the plaintiff’s claims.

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