A former employee of Ardagh Glass claims he was wrongfully fired because he tested positive for marijuana, something he was legally prescribed to ease the pain he suffers because of Marfan syndrome, a suit says.
Joseph B. Cobb III claims in a lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Cumberland County that officials from Ardagh Glass in Bridgeton violated New Jersey discrimination laws by letting him go despite his “stellar work performance.”
Cobb, of Cedarville, names Ardagh Glass, Inc., the company’s environmental health and safety manager, John McLarty, and its human resources manager, James Strahan, among others as defendants.
He claims that his rights under New Jersey’s laws against discrimination were violated for, among other items, Ardagh’s “failure to reasonably accommodate a disability.”
Cobb began working at the glass manufacturing plant on South East Avenue in Bridgeton in January 2012 as a “general utility worker,” the suit says. Ardagh bought the facility from Leone Industries in the spring of 2012.
He claims in the suit that he received promotions and raises from Ardagh for his work performance and “had been groomed for greater responsibilities.”
Cobb says in the lawsuit he was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome in 2013.
Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that impacts the body’s connective tissue. That tissue holds the body’s cells, organs and other tissue together. The heart, lungs, skin and nervous system can be affected by the disease.
To treat his pain, Cobb was prescribed Percocet and Oxycodone, according to the suit, and, despite the disease, “excelled in his position for the years he worked while managing his pain with such medicine (opioids).”
In early 2017, Cobb says in the lawsuit, he was told by his doctor that medical marijuana would be a better way to manage his pain than opioids and he was prescribed medical marijuana, which “dramatically reduced” the other drugs he relied on.
On March 12, the suit says, Cobb fractured his hand while using a machine where the safety guards had allegedly been removed.
Company policy required because he was injured on the job that Cobb undergo a drug and alcohol screening. That screening came back positive for marijuana, according to the suit.
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On the day after the accident, March 13, Cobb showed his medical marijuana prescription card to Ardagh officials. He said he had not used medical marijuana prior to or during his shift, according to his claim.
Cobb says in his suit he was told he had two choices: Be fired or enter into a rehabilitation program for his “drug problem.”
He “pleaded for his job, cited his excellent work performance” and reminded officials he suffered from Marfan syndrome, but Ardagh failed to make any “reasonable accommodation” for him. He complained to his superiors that “he was being discriminated against because of his disability.”
On March 13, Cobb was fired, the suit says. Cobb claims that firing was “solely because of his disability and its treatment course.”
Cobb says he suffered economic loss, harm to his business reputation, disruption to his family life and loss of self-esteem and other harm, pain and suffering because of his firing, the suit says.
He is seeking a jury trial to recover compensatory and punitive damages, front pay, back pay, attorney’s fees and emotional distress damages and reinstatement.
A spokeswoman for Ardagh Glass, Inc., said the company had no comment on the suit since it is an ongoing legal matter.