Nicholas Aponte of Hauppauge is suing the Town of Islip,...

Nicholas Aponte of Hauppauge is suing the Town of Islip, New York State and New York City, alleging he was discriminated against because he lost his job and prospects after a state police job interviewer, who asked to see his phone, saw a text message he sent about his mother-in-law's medical marijuana use. Credit: John Scola

A Hauppauge man lost his job as an Islip park ranger and was denied employment with the NYPD and New York State Police, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday, because of a text he sent as a caretaker for his disabled mother-in-law who uses medical marijuana to treat depression, anxiety and sleep apnea.

Nicholas Aponte, 32, alleges in a lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan that his troubles began during a job interview in November 2019 with state police investigator Scott Kuntz, after he passed a drug test.

Kuntz asked Aponte to see his phone during the interview, and he found a text Aponte sent to his wife urging her not to smoke too much marijuana with her mom, who has had a prescription for medical cannabis since 2016 and “sometimes asks her daughter to use marijuana with her,” according to the court papers.

Aponte and his wife live with his mother-in-law and serve as caretakers for the disabled woman, assisting her with meals, housekeeping, shopping, finances and driving, the suit says. Aponte, who had been working as an Islip park ranger since March 2019, told Kuntz that he did not smoke marijuana, according to the court papers, but Kuntz told him the text barred him from working as a state trooper.

“The people running these organizations still have outdated, antiquated and misguided views on marijuana,” said Aponte’s attorney, John Scola of Manhattan. “The only weird thing here is why they asked to see his phone during an interview. That’s a little creepy.”

The lawsuit, which names the Town of Islip, New York City and New York State as defendants, said it is against the law to discriminate against somebody because they are a caretaker or associate with a disabled person. The complaint also named as a defendant a Town of Islip employee named Craig Cain — who the document said falsely told the NYPD that Aponte had been fired as a park ranger because of drug use.

The lawsuit seeks to have Aponte employed as a state trooper, NYPD member or Islip peace officer, as well as compensatory damages for lost pay, emotional distress and other damages.

Cain could not be reached for comment Sunday.

“It’s the town’s policy not to comment on personnel matters,” an Islip Town representative said in an email on Sunday.

The New York City Law Department also declined to comment. The New York Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Kuntz told Aponte that the text would not impact his job with Islip, according to court papers. But Aponte alleges in the lawsuit that he was forced to resign as an Islip park ranger in December 2019 after the state notified the town about the text message.

During an interview for a job with the NYPD in February 2022, Aponte was told he would be hired following a call to the Town of Islip, his former employer. But after Cain falsely told an NYPD investigator that Aponte was terminated due to drug use, the court papers said, Aponte was denied the job.

Scola said he has represented NYPD employees who were disciplined for use of medical marijuana, but this is his first case where somebody was punished for knowing somebody who uses cannabis.

“What is weird about this is that my client wasn’t using marijuana,” Scola said. “His mother-in-law is the one who used it for her disability and he was punished for it.”

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