Pat and Kevin Williams won a key legal battle with a ruling Friday from a three-judge panel of U.S. Court of Appeals.
A highly detailed 34-page decision written by Judge Bobby Shepherd will allow defensive tackle Pat Williams and Kevin Williams to proceed with their temporary restraining order of the NFL's four-game suspensions in Hennepin County District Court, where they are citing Minnesota employment law that conflicts with the way the NFL handled their case after they tested positive for the banned substance bumetanide.
The substance was found in at least some pills in the dietary supplement StarCaps, but the ingredient was not listed on the label. The NFL's collectively bargained policy on banned substances states that players are responsible for what is in their bodies.
However, the Williamses have argued that the NFL didn't follow Minnesota's Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (DATWA), which requires "written notice of the right to explain the positive test" and an opportunity "to explain that result," along with the ability to "request a confirmatory retest of the original sample at the employee's or job applicant's own expense."
DATWA also precludes an employers from "discharg[ing] [or] disciplin[ing] . . . an employee on the basis of a
positive result . . . that has not been verified by a confirmatory test," according to Friday's ruling.
"Specifically, with respect to first-time offenders, an employer cannot discharge such an employee unless the employee is first given the opportunity to participate in treatment and refuses to participate or fails to successfully complete the program," the decision stated.
While the Williamses will be allowed to continue their case against the NFL-imposed suspensions in Hennepin County District Court, Judge Gary Larson, who is presiding over that part of the case, has said it is not likely to be resumed before the end of the NFL season, essentially allowing the Vikings' defensive tackles to continue playing at least until Larson can continue hearing arguments on the case.
Language from the U.S. Court of Appeal's ruling would seem to favor the Williamses in that case anyways.
"The district court, in discussing the DATWA claim, noted that … ‘[t]he NFL concedes that its steroid testing procedures do not comply with the
letter of Minnesota law, but argues that the differences are negligible and do not require the Court to invalidate the Williamses' positive tests for bumetanide," the ruling read.
But the NFL also conceded that the Vikings, not the NFL, are the players' employer.
Today's ruling could be appealed further by the NFL, but the league has yet to issue a statement on Friday's developments.
Williams Wall will stand for 2009
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