In Raytheon Co. v. Hernandez, No. 02-749 (Decided Dec. 2, 2003), the U.S. Supreme Court held that neutral employer policies that bar the rehiring of a worker fired for misconduct, such as drug use, are legitimate and cannot be overruled by federal disability laws if applied properly.
In Raytheon, Hernandez, a former employee who was fired once before by Raytheon for drug use, was rehabilitated and sought reemployment. The company rejected his application, citing a company policy of not rehiring employees fired for misconduct. The employee sued Raytheon under the Americans with Disablities Act (ADA), which can protect recovered drug users as disabled persons. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ADA might give Hernandez a right to his old job because Raytheon's no-rehire policy violated the ADA merely because it screens out people who have been addicted.
"We hold that such an analysis is inapplicable," Justice Thomas said. "The Court of Appeals ignored the fact that petitioner's no-rehire policy is quintessential a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for refusing to rehire an employee who was terminated for violating workplace conduct rules," the unanimous majority opinion stated.
Still, the Court remanded the case for further proceedings, ordering the lower courts to determine whether Raytheon had applied its no-rehire policy in a neutral fashion. The case was dismissed by the district court before trial, and the Ninth Circuit revived it.