A lawyer for the nursing home, Thomas Blatchley, declined to comment.
Noffsinger’s attorney, Henry Murray, said Noffsinger would not comment on the lawsuit. He said Noffsinger has taken another job in the health care industry that doesn’t pay as much as the Bride Brook job.
In his ruling, Meyer said the federal Drug Free Workplace Act, which many employers including federal contractors rely on for policies on drug testing, does not actually require drug testing and does not prohibit federal contractors from employing people who use medical marijuana outside the workplace in accordance with state law.
The decision will likely be used in arguments in similar cases elsewhere, said Fiona Ong, an employment attorney with the Baltimore firm of Shawe Rosenthal.
“This is a very significant case that throws the issue in doubt for many of these federal contractors,” Ong said. “It’s certainly interesting and may be indicative of where the courts are going with this.”
Thirty-one states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam now allow medical marijuana, while 15 others have approved low-THC-level products for medical reasons in certain cases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational pot.
Only nine states including Connecticut, however, specifically ban employment discrimination against medical marijuana users, who could continue to face difficulties in obtaining or keeping jobs in the 41 other states, employment lawyers say.
In Massachusetts, the state’s highest court ruled last year that a sales and marketing company wrongly fired a worker after her first day on the job after she tested positive for marijuana, which she used under the state’s medical marijuana law to treat her Crohn’s disease. Also last year, in Rhode Island, the state Supreme Court said a college student was wrongly denied an internship at a fabric company where officials refused to hire her after she acknowledged she could not pass a drug test because she used medical marijuana.
In both cases, the two women told the companies during the hiring process that they used medical marijuana, but would not consume it while on the job.
The American Bar Association called the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island cases “an emerging trend in employment litigation” and cautioned employers to consider state medical marijuana laws when analyzing their drug use and testing policies.
Several bills are pending before Congress that would undo marijuana’s classification as a controlled substance with no medicinal value. But Armentano, of NORML, said it is unlikely they will go anywhere while Republicans control Congress.
Some employers, though, have dropped marijuana from the drug tests they require of employees, saying the testing excludes too many potential workers in a challenging hiring environment.