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Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Refusal to Rehire Claim of Rehabilitated Substance User

March 3, 2003

The Supreme Court has agreed to review a case under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") involving a company's refusal to rehire a former drug user who had successfully completed a drug treatment program.

Joel Hernandez, a 25-year employee, was terminated by Hughes Missile Systems (now a part of Raytheon Co.) after testing positive for cocaine use. Hernandez sought to be rehired after he successfully completed a drug treatment program, but his application was rejected under a company policy prohibiting rehire of employees terminated for violation of misconduct rules.

The Ninth Circuit reversed summary judgment in favor of Raytheon, finding that the company's "no rehire" policy as applied to Hernandez violated the ADA. The ADA does not protect current drug users, but it does specifically protect former substance absuers who have been successfully rehabilitated.

The case specifically tests employer policies preventing the rehire of individuals who have been fired for drug use, when the individual claims to have been rehabilitated. The decision may also have broader implications for "no rehire" policies as applied to former employees who claim that their misconduct was attributable to a past disability.