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Federal Court Dismisses Discrimination, Retaliation, and Contract Claims Against KM&M Client

September 28, 2006

On September 13, 2006, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio granted KMM’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing breach of contract, promissory estoppel, age discrimination and retaliation claims brought by a chemical plant technician who was terminated after he failed a drug test by submitting a urine sample that was determined to be inconsistent with human urine. Plaintiff was forty-seven years old when he was terminated, and had worked for the company and its predecessor since 1972.

In 1995 plaintiff took a drug test and tested positive for cocaine. Plaintiff underwent treatment and continued to work under a 2000 Return to Work Agreement that permitted random substance abuse testing for a period of 48 months. In one such test he submitted a urine sample that was split into two samples, both of which were determined by a third-party testing company to be "not consistent with human urine." Shortly thereafter, the employer terminated plaintiff’s employment. Plaintiff initiated a lawsuit, asserting breach of contract, promissory estoppel, age discrimination, and retaliation claims.

At the conclusion of discovery, the employer moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff contended that there were numerous factual issues that required a trial. For example, plaintiff argued that even if his sample was inconsistent with human urine, this did not equate to a failed drug test. Plaintiff also argued that the fact that his temporary replacement was younger than he was sufficient to create an inference of age discrimination. Plaintiff further alleged that the company had allowed younger employees whose results were inconclusive to retake drug tests.

The court rejected all of plaintiff’s contentions, finding that plaintiff failed to rebut the employer’s legitimate non-discriminatory reason for terminating his employment or raise any issue of material fact. The court further found that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation because he offered no evidence that his alleged safety complaints and union organizing activities and his ultimate termination several months thereafter were causally related. Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment in favor of KM&M’s client, dismissing the action in its entirety.