Connecticut Medical Marijuana Patient Sues Over Rejection From Fire Academy

An applicant for the Bridgeport Fire Department who was rejected because a pre-employment drug test was positive for marijuana, has filed suit seeking reinstatement to the eligibility list so he can attend the state fire academy.

James Bulerin III filed suit against the City of Bridgeport and Personnel Director David J. Dunn. The action was filed in Fairfield Judicial District Superior Court on February 6, 2019. Bulerin was notified by Dunn on January 23, 2019 that his conditional offer of employment had been rescinded because he “tested positive for marijuana.”

According to the complaint, Bulerin claims he has protected status under Connecticut’s medical marijuana act, known as the Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA). That act prohibits an employer from refusing to hire a person qualifying as a patient under the act.

Here is the pertinent language from PUMA:

Sec. 21a-408p.

(b) Unless required by federal law or required to obtain federal funding:

(3) 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 or primary caregiver under sections 21a-408 to 21a-408n, inclusive. Nothing in this subdivision shall restrict an employer’s ability to prohibit the use of intoxicating substances during work hours or restrict an employer’s ability to discipline an employee for being under the influence of intoxicating substances during work hours.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • The plaintiff is a qualifying [PUMA] patient who has a valid registration certificate from the Department of Consumer Protection pursuant to subsection (a) of section 21a-408d and has complied with the requirements of Connecticut General Statutes § § 21 a-408 to 21 a-408n, inclusive.
  • The defendant, David J. Dunn, acting on behalf of the defendant, City of Bridgeport, disqualified the plaintiff from the eligibility list for firefighter solely because of his status as a qualifying patient under Connecticut General Statutes §21 a-408 to 21 a-408n.
  • The disqualification of the plaintiff by the defendant, David J. Dunn, acting on behalf of the defendant, City of Bridgeport, constitutes a violation of the explicit provisions of PUMA, Connecticut General Statutes §21a-408p (b) (3).
  • PUMA, Connecticut General Statutes §21 a-408 to 21 a-408n, provides the plaintiff with a private right of action to redress the violation of his rights under PUMA. See Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Operating Co., LLC, 338 F. Supp. 3d 78 (D. Conn. 2018).
  • The reason employed by the defendant, David J. Dunn, to disqualify the plaintiff from appointment to the position of firefighter in the Bridgeport Fire Department exceeded the authority granted to him under § 212 of the Bridgeport City Charter.
  • The defendant, David J. Dunn, violated the provisions of PUMA when he refused to certify the name of the plaintiff as eligible for employment to the position of firefighter in the Bridgeport Fire Department.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Bulerin v Bridgeport

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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