Judge Rules Scott's Drug Testing Law Unconstitutional

Thursday, 26 Apr 2012 02:09 PM

 

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A federal judge declared Gov. Rick Scott's order requiring drug testing for some 85,000 state workers unconstitutional Thursday, saying the governor showed no evidence of a drug problem at the agencies to warrant suspicionless testing.

The ruling marks the second blow to Scott's proposals regarding drug testing. The governor also suspended a state law he supported that required drug testing for welfare recipients last year after a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. A federal judge in Orlando has temporarily blocked that law.

The ACLU and a government worker's union also filed a lawsuit last year challenging Scott's order to drug test state employees, saying the testing violates the Fourth Amendment by subjecting state workers to an unreasonable search without adequate suspicion that they used drugs. Scott, who suspended drug testing for state employees in June, said he will appeal Thursday's ruling.

"As I have repeatedly explained, I believe that drug testing state employees is a common sense means of ensuring a safe, efficient and productive workforce," Scott said in a statement. "That is why so many private employers drug test, and why the public and Florida's taxpayers overwhelmingly support this policy."

Attorneys for the governor's office had argued there is adequate statistical evidence in years of national studies about workplace drug use and its dangers to justify the order. They also reasoned that employees aren't being forced to take state jobs and that they can find employment elsewhere if they don't want to be drug tested.

Scott's attorneys also cited state laws requiring some state employees under certain circumstances to make financial disclosures or provide open access to public records, arguing all state employees have diminished privacy interests regarding drug testing.

"But the Governor's reasoning is hardly transparent and frankly obscure," U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro wrote. "He offers no plausible rationale explaining why the fact that a state employee's work product and financial status are publically accessible leads to the conclusion that the employee's expectation of privacy in his or her bodily functions and fluids is then diminished."

The ACLU and the workers union said that in 2010, only 46 of the 85,000 workers in question were subjected to drug testing because of suspicion they were using drugs - about five one-hundredths of 1 percent. Most were in the Corrections and Juvenile Justice departments, and most were found to be drug-free. In 2009, only four of more than 4,700 workers tested were found positive for drugs.

"There never was any evidence that state employees used drugs more than any other group so this was a case of using hard working state employees to score political points," said Alma Gonzalez, an attorney for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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