NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 4, 2010) — Only employees who are defined as disabled under the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) can cite the ADA in challenging their employers' drug testing policies, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled.
The Nov. 3 appeals court decision reverses the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, which ruled that seven employees of the Dura Automotive Systems Inc. facility in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., had the right to cite the ADA in appealing their dismissal.
According to the appeals court decision, Dura instituted a policy forbidding employee use of certain prescription drugs if those drugs impaired safety or job performance. The company dismissed seven employees for testing positive for prohibited drugs and failing to find alternatives.
The employees sued on the grounds that Dura's drug testing policies violate the ADA.
The trial court denied a motion of summary judgment by the plaintiffs but ruled they could claim the ADA as authority that Dura's tests were impermissible, despite that six of the seven were not disabled as a matter of law.
Dura requested clarification, and the trial court, noting a difference of opinion between courts on the ADA question, sent an interlocutory appeal to the Sixth Circuit court.
Although some provisions of the ADA allow non-disabled individuals to bring claims, the plain language of the subsection cited by the plaintiffs covers only qualified individuals with disabilities, the appeals court ruled.
It quoted another case on the same subject: “The plain meaning of legislation should be conclusive, except in rare cases in which the literal application of a statute will produce a result demonstrably at odds with the intentions of its drafters.”