“One Strike” Anti-Drug Rule Upheld; Longshoreman’s Claim of ADA Discrimination Rejected; Court Finds No Intentional Discrimination

In Lopez v. Pacific Maritime Association, the plaintiff was a rehabilitated drug addict.  He wanted to become a longshoreman.  He applied for work in Long Beach in 1997, but failed a drug test at that time.  He recognized his addiction to drugs and alcohol and worked hard to overcome it. By 2004 he was “clean” and reapplied for work as a longshoreman but was disqualified for having failed the earlier drug test.  The defendant has a “one strike” policy that permanently disqualified anyone who failed a work related drug test.

Mr. Lopez sued, contending that the “one strike” rule discriminated against addicts and, in his case worked an illegal result because he was no longer an addict and no longer suffered from that disability; indeed, on the record, he was “clean” and able to go to work.

The court upheld the employer’s refusal to hire Lopez.  The anti-drug policy in question was not illegal, said the court, because it did not work intentional discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  As the court noted: “We recognize that the one-strike rule imposes a harsh penalty on applicants who test positive for drug use. As Defendant candidly concedes, many people question the rule’s reasonableness in light of the fact that many people who use drugs later rehabilitate themselves, as Plaintiff exemplifies. But unreasonable rules do not necessarily violate the ADA or the FEHA. Because Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendant intentionally discriminated against him on the basis of his protected status or that the one-strike rule disparately affects recovered drug addicts, we affirm the summary judgment in favor of Defendant.”

For your convenience, a copy of this ruling is attached.

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