ASHDOWN, Ark.–Domtar fired an employee at its Ashdown paper mill for legally using marijuana away from work, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in Little River County circuit court.
Bryan Prinsen alleges he worked at Domtar Paper Company LLC for more than 11 years before he was fired for using marijuana prescribed to him by a doctor. Prinsen said in his complaint that he had a perfect safety record throughout his employment and had been a medical marijuana user for two years before Domtar gave him the choice to quit his prescription marijuana use or go to drug rehab.
Prinsen was regularly screened for illicit drug use and did test positive for marijuana, but no action was taken because of his status as a medical marijuana patient, according to the complaint. Prinsen accuses Domtar of reclassifying all positions at the Ashdown mill as “safety-sensitive” so that it could get rid of employees using marijuana legally.
Prinsen alleges Domtar is violating Amendment 98 to the Arkansas state constitution.
“Under Amendment 98, employers can decline to hire or fire a medical marijuana patient in a ‘safety-sensitive’ position,’ when the position is designated as ‘safety-sensitive’ in writing and meets the specific qualifications” set forth in the amendment, the complaint said.
Prinsen alleges that Domtar reclassified all jobs at the Ashdown mill as “safety-sensitive” rather than assess each individual position. He adds that he never possessed, used or was under the influence of marijuana while on Domtar property or during his on-duty hours.
Prinsen alleges he was suspended without pay and told he couldn’t come back to work until he produced a “clean” drug test.
“Plaintiff was told if he could not produce this test, the defendant would offer him the opportunity to attend drug rehabilitation for a substance he has a doctor’s prescription to use,” the complaint said.
Prinsen claims he was fired on July 12 by Domtar “because he could not produce a ‘clean’ drug test and he refused to attend drug rehabilitation,” according to the complaint. “He is unable to pay his bills, which has caused chaos in nearly every aspect of his life.”
Prinsen alleges he is entitled to damages for back pay, lost wages and lost benefits under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act. He is also seeking a judgment for attorney fees.
Prinsen is represented by Chris Burks of wh Law in Little Rock. According to the case docket, Domtar has not yet been served with a copy of the complaint.