February 6, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 37

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February 03, 2023

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Connecticut District Court Rejects Medical Marijuana User’s ADA Claims

firefighter, Thomas Eccleston, who claimed the City of Waterbury violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by firing him for using medical marijuana.  Eccleston, a medical marijuana registration card holder, asserted claims for discriminatory termination, failure to accommodate, and retaliation under the ADA.

Judge Underhill held that Eccleston was not a “qualified individual” under the ADA by virtue of his medical marijuana use because marijuana is still an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act, thus even supervised use of medical marijuana cannot fit within the supervised use exception to the ADA.  The Court took pains to clarify that the use of medical marijuana does not disqualify plaintiffs from asserting ADA claims provided those claims are not predicated on discrimination on the basis of the marijuana use.

Eccleston also claimed that because Waterbury was aware he had a medical marijuana card, it also should have been on notice that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.  The claim foundered because Eccleston never alerted Waterbury to his PTSD diagnosis and the mere mention that he might get a medical marijuana card did not put Waterbury on notice of any underlying condition. 

Eccleston’s failure to accommodate claims fell flat as well.  He claimed that Waterbury failed to accommodate his disability by “permitting a positive result on a random drug screen when in fact he had a prescription” and by failing to engage in the interactive process.  Finding that employers are not obligated to accommodate the use of drugs deemed illegal by the CSA, the Court held that Waterbury’s refused to Eccleston to test positive for marijuana did not state a claim for failure to accommodate.

The Court found the interactive process claim insufficient as well.  Similar to his discrimination claim, Eccleston asserted that Waterbury was on notice of the need for an accommodation discussion because he disclosed that he might get a medical marijuana card without specifying what the drug was supposed to treat.

Eccleston also failed to state a claim for retaliation because his claimed protected activity was that he mentioned the possibility of getting a medical marijuana card to his chief.  The Court found that this was not protected activity for purposes of the ADA.

Eccleston also asserted claims under Connecticut state law, including claims under the Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (“PUMA”) alleging discrimination on the basis of his status as a registered medical marijuana user.  However, the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims, dismissing them without prejudice to refiling in state court.

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Mary Gambardella Litigation lawyer Wiggin Dana

Mary brings decades of experience in helping clients comply with ever-changing labor laws and regulations, as well as in managing employment challenges such as sensitive terminations, sexual harassment, reductions in workforce, discrimination claims, and severance agreements. She is a proactive resource for clients seeking her counsel on a variety of human resource issues before they become a costly crisis, as well as a fierce advocate when crises arise.

Mary is Chair of the firm’s Labor, Employment and Benefits Department and regularly represents employers in...

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Lawrence Peikes Employment litigation lawyer Wiggin Dana

Larry represents the interests of management in all aspects of the employer-employee relationship and is particularly experienced in litigation defense. He has advocated for employers in a wide range of employment cases—before arbitrators, mediators, and government agencies as well as in state and federal courts. In a field where most attorneys rarely appear before a judge, let alone a jury, Larry has successfully tried cases on both the federal and state levels. Despite his extensive courtroom experience, Larry is first and foremost dedicated to finding the best, most...

Joshua Wyatt Labor & Employment Attorney

Josh is an Associate in Wiggin and Dana's Labor, Employment and Benefits Department.

Josh's practice is focused on defending employers against claims of discrimination in state and federal courts, as well as a variety of administrative agencies, including the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. Josh also represents employers in litigation regarding the enforcement of restrictive covenants. He regularly prepares and advises clients regarding employee handbooks, personnel policies and practices, implementation and enforcement of restrictive covenants, offer...

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