United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
a case about a claim of employment discrimination on the
basis of a person's use of medical marijuana as
authorized under the Connecticut Palliative Use of Marijuana
Act (PUMA), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-408 et seq.
PUMA prescribes qualifying conditions for a person to use
marijuana for medicinal purposes. It also contains an
anti-discrimination provision that bars an employer from
refusing to hire a person or from discharging, penalizing or
threatening an employee solely because of the person's
status as a qualifying medical marijuana patient under state
law. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-408p(b)(3).
Katelin Noffsinger accepted a job offer from defendant SSC
Niantic Operating Company, LLC d/b/a Bride Brook Health &
Rehabilitation Center. But the offer was contingent on drug
testing, and plaintiff told defendant that she was qualified
under PUMA to use marijuana for medical purposes to treat her
post-traumatic stress disorder. After her drug test came back
positive for THC consistent with the use of marijuana,
defendant rescinded its job offer.
soon filed this lawsuit against defendant. I have previously
ruled that PUMA creates a private right of action and that
PUMA's anti-discrimination provision is not preempted by
federal law. See Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Operating Co.
LLC, 273 F.Supp.3d 326 (D. Conn. 2017). Since then the
parties have conducted discovery and have now cross-moved for
reasons set forth below, I conclude that plaintiff is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law in her favor on her
claim of employment discrimination under PUMA. On the other
hand, I will grant defendant's motion for summary
judgment precluding plaintiff from recovery for
attorney's fees and punitive damages for her PUMA claim,
and I will also grant defendant's motion for summary
judgment as to plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction
of emotional distress.
was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in
2012 after being in a car accident. Doc. #70-1 at 249-50. Her
caregiver recommended treating her PTSD with medical
marijuana, which she began using in 2015. Id. at
284. In accordance with PUMA, plaintiff registered with the
Department of Consumer Protection in November 2015 as a
qualifying patient for the use of medical marijuana.
Id. at 288.
of 2016, defendant recruited plaintiff for the position of
Activities Manager at the Bride Brook Facility. Doc. #76-1 at
1 (¶ 1). In response to the outreach, plaintiff emailed
a copy of her resume to defendant. Id. at 2 (¶
2). Plaintiff subsequently spoke with defendant's
administrator, Lisa Mailloux, and scheduled an in-person
interview for July 18, 2016. See Id. (¶ 3). The
interview was successful, and Mailloux offered plaintiff the
position of Activities Manager subject to the completion of
pre-employment screenings. Id. at 2-3 (¶¶
4-6). Plaintiff accepted the offer on July 19. Id.
at 3 (¶ 7).
and Mailloux agreed that a follow-up visit would take place
on July 25 for the completion of pre-employment papers,
background check, and drug screen. Id. at 3-4
(¶¶ 8, 10). At this follow-up meeting, plaintiff
disclosed to Mailloux her PTSD diagnosis and her
participation in Connecticut's medical marijuana program.
Id. at 4 (¶ 11). She explained that she took
prescription marijuana in the evenings as a “qualifying
patient” under PUMA and showed Mailloux her
registration certificate and an empty pill container which
displayed the name and dosage of her medical marijuana pills.
Id. at 4-5 (¶¶ 11-12).
her disclosure, plaintiff provided a urine sample for the
pre-employment drug screen. Id. at 5 (¶ 13).
The test produced an initial positive result for THC, a
chemical component of marijuana. Id. (¶ 14).
Per defendant's standard procedure, the sample was also
sent to a third-party drug testing company for testing.
Id. (¶ 13).
the meeting of July 25, Mailloux emailed the district human
resources manager, Terri Taylor, to inform her that plaintiff
was a medical marijuana user and tested positive for
marijuana on the initial results from the urine sample.
Id. (¶ 16). On July 29, Mailloux emailed Kate
Warren, a compliance officer for defendant, and advised her
that plaintiff “was on medical marijuana for night
terrors, ” and she asked “how would that change
the rational [sic] for hire [sic] based on the fact that we
do not allow medical marijuana for our employees.. [sic] If
there is a prescription and obviously has a diagnosis for it,
how would that change the fact that we would not hire
her?” Doc. #64-11 at 3.
August 1, 2016, Warren responded to this request by
explaining that plaintiff could not be hired if the
third-party drug testing company confirmed the positive
marijuana test. Doc. #64-11 at 2. Warren specifically stated
that plaintiff “will be disqualified” from the
job if the third party test returned a positive result
because “[m]edical marijuana is not an approved
prescription, ” and “we use the [f]ederal law,
which indicates marijuana is still illegal.”
August 1, Mailloux emailed Taylor to ask when she could
“officially” publicize that Bride Brook was still
recruiting for an Activities Manager. Doc. #64-13 at 2.
Taylor advised Mailloux to wait until the results from the
third party drug tester were officially posted before
publicizing the vacancy. Ibid.
August 2, the day before plaintiff was scheduled to start
work at Bride Brook, the third party drug testing company
informed plaintiff that she had tested positive for THC. Doc.
#76-1 at 6 (¶ 19). Plaintiff immediately called Mailloux
and left a voice message in which she informed Mailloux of a
positive result for marijuana. Id. (¶ 20).
Within a few minutes, Mailloux returned plaintiff's call
and informed her ...