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Federal Court Upholds $250,001 Award to Worker Fired for Positive Drug Test


July 1993

A federal court in May let stand a $250,001 jury award of compensatory damages to a transit worker fired for testing positive for marijuana ("Court Leaves Jury Award Undisturbed In Return-To-Work Drug Testing Case," The National Report On Substance Abuse, 6/18/93, p. 5).

The May 7 ruling by the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania in Bolden v. SEPTA, (USDC ED Pa), No. 88-9156, 5/7/93, upheld the award to Russell Bolden, a transit worker fired after testing positive for marijuana in a return-to-work test. Bolden was originally awarded $285,000 in compensatory damages in March 1990 for being subjected to an unconstitutional drug test. The test was ruled unconstitutional because Bolden was not in a safety-sensitive position.

The $285,000 award was thrown out by the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in April 1991, which argued that although the test was unconstitutional, Bolden had consented to it, and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) should have been held immune from the suit. That decision was overruled in December 1991 with the proviso that the damage award be subject to retrial. In the retrial, the jury awarded $250,001, apportioning $1 to the initial pre-settlement period and $250,000 to the post-settlement period. That award was challenged by SEPTA but upheld by the May 1993 ruling.