Vikings' Kevin and Pat Williams must prove NFL is their employer in drug-testing case
By Rochelle Olson
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
MINNEAPOLIS — If Kevin and Pat Williams want to collect damages from the NFL for allegedly mishandling their drug tests, the players will have to prove the league employs them, Hennepin County Judge Gary Larson ruled Thursday.
If the Vikings' defensive tackles prove the NFL employs them at least partially, the league is subject to Minnesota's workplace drug and alcohol testing laws. The NFL argues that the Vikings, not the league, employ the players.
The distinction matters because the league administers the drug-testing.
Larson's order said the league clearly violated Minnesota laws by failing to tell the players within three days that they had tested positive for a banned substance. The players were tested on July 26, 2008, but weren't told of the results until two months later.
Larson also said the NFL might have violated the confidentiality requirement of the state laws, but more evidence is needed.
The players say the media found out about the test results before they did. The NFL said the Williamses failed to produce evidence the NFL had leaked the results.
A trial is scheduled to start March 8 before Larson.
The Williamses' lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, said they're happy they'll finally have their day in court.
"We're confident we'll be able to prove the NFL so controls the work environment and test procedures that the law clearly applies," Ginsberg said.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is confident it will win the case in trial.
The league suspended the players for four games each in late 2008 for taking bumetanide, a diuretic that can be used as a masking agent for steroids. It was an unlisted ingredient in StarCaps, an over-the-counter weight-loss supplement.
The players went to court and won the right to continue playing while their legal appeals played out.
The NFL argues that subjecting its drug policy to divergent state regulations would render the national collective bargaining agreement impossible.
The NFL has a strict liability policy that holds players responsible for what goes into their bodies. But the Williamses argued that Minnesota law gives employees an opportunity to explain the innocent use of an otherwise banned product and that the NFL didn't allow them to explain their use of StarCaps.
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