Perrigo's Drug Test Policy Upheld in Court Against Discrimination Claims

April 19th, 2024 Legal & Crime
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In a notable legal decision that reiterates the stringent boundaries of disability and age discrimination under U.S. law, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling in favor of L. Perrigo Company, dismissing claims filed by former employee Steve Arndt. Arndt had contested his termination, arguing it was due to age and wrongful perception of disability. This article delves into the complexities of the case, the legal arguments presented, and the implications of the court's decision.

Background of the Case

Steve Arndt, a 61-year-old facilities electrician turned vision system technician, was terminated from Perrigo after testing positive for marijuana—a result he attributed to the use of a lip balm containing hemp oil. Perrigo, a leading U.S. manufacturer of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, maintains a zero-tolerance stance on drug use, employing third-party testing to enforce this policy.

Arndt's legal challenge revolved around the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), contending that his dismissal was based on the company's misperception of him as a drug user, equating this misperception with disability. Additionally, he suggested that age discrimination was a contributing factor to his termination.

Court's Analysis and Decision

The crux of the Sixth Circuit's decision lay in the interpretation of what constitutes a "disability" under the ADA. The court emphasized that merely perceiving an employee as a user of illegal drugs does not equate to perceiving them as having a disabling impairment. Moreover, Arndt failed to demonstrate that Perrigo regarded him as having a disability that substantially limited one or more major life activities, a key component of the ADA's protection scope.

Regarding the age discrimination claim under the ADEA, the court noted that Arndt could not prove that his age was the basis for his dismissal. The company's honest belief that Arndt violated its drug policy—regardless of the lip balm's potential effects—served as a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for his termination.

Legal and Workplace Implications

The court's ruling underscores the rigorous standards required to establish claims of discrimination based on perceived disability and age. It highlights the significance of employers maintaining clear, well-documented policies and procedures, especially concerning compliance issues like drug testing.

For employees, the decision serves as a cautionary tale about the limits of protection under employment discrimination laws, particularly in cases involving compliance with workplace policies. It also sheds light on the importance of evidence and the burden of proof in discrimination claims.


The Sixth Circuit's affirmation of Steve Arndt's case dismissal provides a clear message on the boundaries of the ADA and ADEA. It reinforces the principle that without concrete evidence of discrimination or a substantial legal basis, employee claims against terminations that align with established company policies are unlikely to succeed.

This decision not only clarifies aspects of employment law concerning drug use and discrimination but also stresses the judicial system's role in interpreting statutory protections in the context of evolving workplace norms and societal values.

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