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Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office.

2021 COA 48. No. 20CA1010.  Colorado Employment Security Act—Nonvolitional Drug or Alcohol Addiction—Unemployment Benefits.

April 8, 2021

Muhs worked as a registered nurse for Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado (Catholic Health). She stole and self-injected fentanyl while working there, and Catholic Health terminated her employment. Muhs was awarded unemployment compensation benefits based on a finding that she was not at fault for her unemployment because her fentanyl addiction rendered her fentanyl theft and use nonvolitional. A panel of the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel) affirmed the award.

On appeal, Catholic Health challenged the Panel’s award, arguing that Muhs was not entitled to benefits because she did not comply with CRS § 8-73-108(4)(b)(IV) of the Colorado Employment Security Act (Act). The Act provides that a worker who loses employment because of a “no-fault” addiction may qualify for unemployment benefits only if the worker asserts an alcohol or substance abuse disorder and within four weeks of that admission takes enumerated steps to qualify for benefits. Here, it was undisputed that Muhs did not comply with the statute. Therefore, the Panel erred.

The order was set aside and the matter was remanded to the Panel with directions to return the case to the hearing officer for entry of an order disqualifying Muhs from unemployment compensation benefits.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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