Williams trial date set

A Hennepin County District Court judge ruled Thursday that Pat and Kevin Williams can sue the NFL for damages in the appeal of their four-game suspensions, but, in a strange twist, will have to prove they work for the league.

The next step in the 19-month saga involving Pat Williams, Kevin Williams and the NFL took another step forward Thursday as Hennepin County District Court Judge Gary Larson ruled that a trial against the league can move ahead and that the Williams Wall can sue the league for damages. The rub? They have to prove they're employed by the league.

As bizarre as that might seem, it will be the focus of the trial, set to start March 8. If the Williamses can prove the league employs them – even partially – then the NFL is subject to Minnesota's workplace drug testing laws. The league claims that the Vikings and the other 31 individual teams employ the players, not the NFL. The reason for the distinction is that the Vikings don't administer the drug tests themselves. That falls on the league, which employs a lab at UCLA.

In his 44-page ruling, Larson said the NFL violated Minnesota laws by failing to tell the Williamses within three days that they had tested positive for a banned substance. The players were tested at the start of training camp in late July 2008 and weren't informed of the positive test until October 2008. Larson went on to say that the possibility exists that the NFL may have violated the confidentially requirements in the state laws, since the players contend they found out about the suspensions after being asked questions by the media.

Both sides are confident they will prevail in court and both of the Williamses have maintained for more than a year that they want to clear their names and wouldn't consider a settlement that could reduce a potential suspension to one or two games. As it currently stands, both are in line to face four-game suspensions. The NFL contends that a national collective bargaining agreement about drug testing would be impossible if it was subjected to individual state laws. The NFL has teams in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

The ruling wasn't a slam-dunk victory for the Williams Wall. Judge Larson ruled that the NFL complied with the Minnesota Drug Testing in the Workplace Act in handing down suspensions to both. While the lab that does the league's testing at UCLA isn't certified of the Drug Testing in the Workplace Act, it exceeds Minnesota standards for detecting banned substances and protecting worker's rights. Larson ruled that the state law allows for the employees to provide written explanation for their positive test, but that the employer is not required to accept the explanation.

The case is scheduled to start March 8 and will be heard in Larson's court.


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