Raytheon Co. v. Hernandez, 540 U.S. 44 (2003)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 02-749. Argued October 8, 2003—Decided December 2, 2003

After respondent tested positive for cocaine and admitted that his behavior violated petitioner's workplace conduct rules, he was forced to resign. More than two years later, he applied to be rehired, stating on his application that petitioner had previously employed him, and attaching letters both from his pastor about his active church participation and from an Alcoholics Anonymous counselor about his regular attendance at meetings and his recovery. The employee who reviewed and rejected respondent's application testified that petitioner has a policy against rehiring employees who are terminated for workplace misconduct and that she did not know that respondent was a former drug addict when she rejected his application. Respondent filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming that he had been discriminated against in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter, and respondent filed this ADA action, arguing that petitioner rejected his application because of his record of drug addiction and/or because he was regarded as being a drug addict. In response to petitioner's summary judgment motion, respondent for the first time argued in the alternative that if petitioner applied a neutral no-rehire policy in his case, it still violated the ADA because of that policy's disparate impact. The District Court granted petitioner's motion for summary judgment on the disparate-treatment claim and found that the disparate-impact claim had not been timely pleaded or raised. The Ninth Circuit agreed as to the disparate-impact claim, but held as to the disparate-treatment claim that, under the burden-shifting approach of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U. S. 792, respondent had proffered a prima facie case of discrimination, and petitioner had not met its burden to provide a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its employment action because its no-rehire policy, though lawful on its face, was unlawful as applied to employees who were lawfully forced to resign for illegal drug use but have since been rehabilitated.

Held: The Ninth Circuit improperly applied a disparate-impact analysis to respondent's disparate-treatment claim. This Court has consistently distinguished between disparate-treatment and disparate-impact claims. The former arise when an employer treats some people less favorably

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