A federal court in Connecticut has ruled that it’s a violation of the state’s medical cannabis law to refuse to hire a medical cannabis patient based solely on a drug test which finds cannabis in their system.
Refusing to hire a medical cannabis patient because she tested positive on a pre-employment drug test violates Connecticut’s medical marijuana law, a federal court in Connecticut has held, granting summary judgment to the job applicant on her employment discrimination claim. The case is Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Operating Co., LLC, d/b/a Bride Brook Nursing & Rehab. Ctr., No. 3:16-cv-01938, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150453 (D. Conn. Sept. 5, 2018).
“Noffsinger illustrates that employers (including federal contractors) should not rely solely on federal law or their status as a federal contractor when making employment decisions with regard to applicants and employees who use medical marijuana”, states a report by Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm with over 850 attorneys nationwide. “Courts in Connecticut and certain other states will enforce state laws against discrimination with regard to medical marijuana use.”
Despite the ruling, the court declined to award the applicant any attorneys’ fees or punitive damages, and dismissed her claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Below is some background on the case:
Bride Brook, a federal contractor, made an offer of employment to Katelin Noffsinger contingent on her passing a pre-employment drug test. Noffsinger told Bride Brook that she was a registered qualifying patient under the Connecticut Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA) and she has used medical marijuana since 2015 to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
When the pre-employment drug test came back positive for marijuana, Noffsinger was not hired because the employer followed federal law holding that marijuana is illegal.
Noffsinger filed a complaint in state court, alleging, among other things, a violation of PUMA’s anti-discrimination provision.
The provision states:
[U]nless required by federal law or required to obtain funding: … No employer may refuse to hire a person or may discharge, penalize or threaten an employee solely on the basis of such person’s or employee’s status as a qualifying patient.
The court denied Bride Brook’s motion to dismiss. Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Operating Co., LLC, d/b/a Bride Brook Nursing & Rehab. Ctr., 273 F.Supp.3d 326 (D. Conn. Aug. 8, 2017). The court held:
- PUMA provides a private right of action to aggrieved medical marijuana patients; and
- Federal law does not preempt PUMA’s prohibition on employers’ firing or refusing to hire qualified medical marijuana patients, even if they test positive on an employment-related drug test.
After that decision, the case proceeded with discovery, and both parties moved for summary judgment.