A Burlington County man has filed a lawsuit against a former employer he claims fired him after learning of his political views and religious beliefs.
Ed Forchion, of the Browns Mills section of Pemberton Township, who professes Rastafarianism, claims CD & L shipping of Hackensack fired him Sept. 7 after a supervisor saw him on television at a demonstration against Gov. James E. McGreevey on Aug. 26.
Forchion, who is running for Burlington County freeholder and seeks a U.S congressional seat as a member of the U.S. Marijuana Party, filed the suit in federal court Monday. Claiming his First Amendment rights were violated, he is asking for immediate reinstatement with back pay, a jury trial, punitive damages and a written apology from his supervisor.
Officials from CD & L did not return several phone calls for comment Tuesday.
Forchion, who unsuccessfully tried to change his name to NJWeedman.com, claims his religious freedoms are protected under the First Amendment because Rastafarians consider marijuana a sacrament.
Rastafarianism began as a spiritual movement in Jamaica in the 1930s. Practitioners often grow their hair into locks and use marijuana.
Forchion said he was not asked to submit a urine sample or renounce his religion before taking the job.
In his suit, Forchion claims company officials mistook his presence at the rally as being anti-homosexual.
“I am in the marijuana reform movement and there are a lot of gays in the the movement with me. I would be stepping on my own foot if I spoke out against them,” said Forchion.
In 1997, he was arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute more than 40 pounds of marijuana. Forchion served 17 months of a 10-year prison sentence.
After he was released on parole, Forchion filmed a pro-marijuana commercial and was sent back to prison for violating terms of his parole. A federal judge ordered him released after five months, saying the arrest was an infringement of free speech.
“Its hard enough to get a job as a felon,” said Forchion.
In his two months as a courier for CD & L, Forchion said he made regular deliveries to Fleet Bank branches. Fleet is also named as a plaintiff in the suit.