Michael C. Dorf, Professor of Law at Cornell University, had a column on FindLaw this week:
Last week, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit dealt an apparent blow to the National Football League’s drug-testing policy. In Williams v. NFL, the court held that league’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the NFL Players Association (“the Union”), did not prevent Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, two players for the Minnesota Vikings, from challenging the league’s drug-testing regime under Minnesota laws.
Both players had been disciplined for testing positive for a prescription diuretic that is banned by the NFL because it could be used to mask steroid use. They argued that they had taken the banned substance unknowingly, but the NFL strictly enforced a rule making players accountable even for accidental use. Last week’s ruling did not decide the merits of that dispute, but only held that the lawsuit could proceed further. (The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling in favor of the NFL on other claims, which I shall not discuss here.)
The Williams case involves a relatively routine application of Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), the core federal labor statute. The case is nonetheless interesting because the arguments that the NFL raised, if successful, would have substantially undercut American federalism.
Read the entire column here.