HARRISBURG – An Upper Merion Township School District bus driver who failed a random drug test under what an arbitrator deemed “unique circumstances” will get her job back, according to a June 23 ruling issued by the Commonwealth Court.
The school district appealed to the Commonwealth Court after the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County upheld an arbitration award and directed the district to reinstate the bus driver’s employment.
The Commonwealth Court affirmed the lower court’s decision.
According to the appeal ruling issued by the Commonwealth Court, Sheena Boone-East failed a random drug test taken on June 12, 2013. A doctor at the facility that performed the drug test said Boone-East was found to have had amphetamines in her system.
The Commonwealth Court said Boone-East admitted to taking the drug Adderall, which had been prescribed to her son to treat his attention deficit disorder. Boone-East claimed that she took the drug because she noticed changes in her son’s eating habits and wanted to find out first-hand if the drug could be causing her son to lose his appetite.
Boone-East testified that her son’s psychiatrist confirmed that Adderall is not a narcotic, so she thought it would be safe for her to take.
After the Upper Merion board of school directors agreed with the district’s decision to terminate Boone-East’s employment and denied a grievance filed by the Teamsters on her behalf, the union requested arbitration.
“The arbitrator observed that the district’s reservation of discretion to impose a lesser penalty reflected that the district was sophisticated and insightful enough to anticipate that, on occasion, unique circumstances might call for a lesser penalty,” the Commonwealth Court ruling said. “The arbitrator then concluded that grievant’s situation presented such unique circumstances...”
Specifically, the arbitrator said Boone-East “is not a recreational drug user. Nor, is she likely to repeat this misadventure.”
The arbitrator also said no evidence had been presented to indicate that Boone-East’s driving was impaired as a result of her decision to try the drug.
As a result, the arbitrator decided that “the district’s termination of grievant’s employment was too severe a penalty,” according to the Commonwealth Court ruling.
The arbitrator ordered the district to give Boone-East her job back following a pre-return drug test. The arbitrator also ordered Boone-East to be evaluated by a “substance abuse professional” and submit to at least six more drug tests in the year following the arbitration award.
In addition to reinstatement of her job, the arbitrator awarded Boone-East back pay from the date of her termination through the date of the arbitration award.