RESPONDENT: Carl Beazer et al.
LOCATION: New York Transit Authority
DOCKET NO.: 77-1427
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
CITATION: 440 US 568 (1979)
ARGUED: Dec 06, 1978
DECIDED: Mar 21, 1979
Deborah M. Greenberg - argued the cause for the respondents
Joan Offner - argued the cause for the petitioner
Facts of the case
Carl Beazer and Jose Reyes were employees of the New York Transit Authority (NYTA). Both were heroin addicts undergoing methadone treatment. NYTA maintained a policy against hiring anyone using narcotics. Methadone was considered a narcotic, and both Beazer and Reyes were terminated after NYTA learned of their methadone use. Beazer and Reyes filed a class action against the Transit Authority, alleging that NYTA's policy discriminated against blacks and Hispanics. They cited a statistic showing that 81 percent of suspected violations of NYTA's policy were black or Hispanic. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled for Beazer, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed this decision.
Did the New York Transit Authority's prohibition against the hiring of anybody using methadone violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
Media for New York City Transit Authority v. BeazerAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 06, 1978 in New York City Transit Authority v. Beazer
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 21, 1979 in New York City Transit Authority v. Beazer
John Paul Stevens:
The second case that I have to announce also comes to us from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and also originated in New York.
The New York Transit Authority enforces a rule that prohibits its employees from using narcotic drugs of any kind.
Methadone is a narcotic drug that is used widely in the treatment of heroine addiction.
The Transit Authority enforces its no narcotics rule against persons who are receiving methadone treatment.
The respondents in this case are persons who are either discharged or refused employment because they were taking methadone.
The District Court found that the Transit Authority’s policy of refusing to employ persons who use methadone violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In a subsequent opinion, the Court also held that the policy violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Court of Appeals affirmed without reaching the statutory question.
The departure by those courts from the procedure normally followed in addressing statutory and constitutional questions in the same case as well as concerned that the merits of these important questions have been decided erroneously led us to grant certiorari.
We now reverse.
Without reaching the question whether it would be unlawful for the Transit Authority to refuse to employ persons who have successfully completed a methadone treatment program, the Court holds that the policy of refusing to employ current users of methadone does not violate either Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.
Mr. Justice Powell filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting statement and Mr. Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice Marshall has joined.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you, Mr. Justice Stevens.