Case Scenario

Velma Sue Bates v. Dura Automotive Systems, Inc.

The issue is whether the employer’s drug testing policy is permissible under the American

Disabilities Act.

Plaintiffs -appellees are seven former employees of Dura Automotive Systems who are

ch allenging Dura’s drug testing policy under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In resolving

the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment, the district court held that an individual

need not be disabled to pursue a claim under section 12112(b)(6) of the Act. The district

court certified this issue for interlocutory appeal, which a panel of this Court granted. We now

REVERSE the district court’s decision and hold that an individual must be disabled to pursue

a claim under 42 U.S.C. 12112(b)(6).

The employ ees are 7 individuals who worked at Dura’s Lawrenceburg, Tennessee

manufacturing facility. Dura manufactures glass window units for cars, trucks, and busses,

and the Employees performed a wide range of jobs at Dura including driving tow motors,

assembling windows, painting primer on frames, and trimming and water testing windows.

Dura grew concerned that the Lawrenceburg facility has a higher rate of workplace accidents

that comparable plants and suspected that this might be caused by either legal or illega l drug

use. To improve safety, Dura implemented a policy that prohibited employees from using

legal prescription drugs is such use adversely affected safety, company property or job

performance. Dura worked with an independent drug testing company to set u p a procedure

to screen its employees for substances it believed could be dangerous in the workplace. The

resulting policy screened employees for 12 substances including those commonly found in

legal prescription drugs such as Xanax, Lortab, and Oxycodone.

Each of the Employees tested positive for one of the 12 prohibited substances. In each case,

the individual has a legal prescription for a drug containing that substance. Dura gave each of

the Employees an opportunity to transition to drugs without the pr ohibited substances, but

refused to consider letters from doctors stating that the Employees’ work performance would

not be affected by the drugs. Eventually, Dura terminated the Employees when they

continued taking medication with the prohibited substance s.

The Employees sued, claiming that Dura’s drug testing violates the Americans with

Disabilities Act. In resolving the parties’ cross motions for a summary judgment, the district

court concluded that 6 of the employees are not disabled as a matter of law. The district court

held that the Employees’ claim that Dura’s actions constituted an impermissible medical

examination is best analyzed under section 12112(b)(6). The district court denied the

Employees’ summary judgment motion, finding that there was a d isputed issue of material

fact as to whether Dura’s justification for the drug testing falls within the exception of the Act

for testing that is job related and consistent with business necessity. Dura then moved for clarification, asking the district cour t to determine whether individuals

must be disabled in order to pursue claims under section 12112(b)(6), but, recognizing that

there is a difference of opinion on this question, certified this issue for interlocutory appeal. A

panel of this Court granted t he petition for leave to appeal on the issue of whether an

individual must be disabled to pursue a claim under section 12112(b)(6) of the Act. Section

12112 of the Act prohibits discrimination against a “qualified individual with a disability

because of th e disability.” 42 U.S.C. 12112(a) 2006. In pertinent part, this section provides:

(a) General Rule

No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of

the disability of such individual….

(b) Construction

As used in subsection (a) of this section, the term “discriminate” includes…

(6) using qualification standards, employment tests or other selection criteria that screen out

or tend to screen out an individual with a disability or a class of individuals with disab ilities

unless the standard, test or other selection criteria, as used by the covered entity, is shown to

be job -related for the position in question and is consistent with business necessity.

Although non -disabled individuals may bring claims under some p rovisions of the Act, the

plain text of subsection (b)(6) only covers individuals with disabilities. The text of subsection

(a0 and (b)(6) specifically refers to “qualified individual[s],” and not, as discussed below, a

broader class of individuals such as “employees.”

A straightforward reading of this stature compels the conclusion that only a “qualified

individual with a disability” is protected from the prohibited form of discrimination described

is subsection (b)(6) — the use of qualification standards an d other tests that tend to screen

out disabled individuals.

For the reasons set forth above, we REVERSE the district court’s decision that non -disabled

individuals can pursue claims under section 12112(b)(6) of the Act. On remand, the district

court shall dismiss the claims of the non -disabled Plaintiffs under section 12112(b)(6) of the


Judgment for Dura Automotive Systems