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UPDATE: Gov. Scott’s state worker drug testing unconstitutional, federal judge rules

by Dara Kam | April 26th, 2012

UPDATE: Gov. Rick Scott said he will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that random, suspicionless drug testing of state workers is unconstitutional.

“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. That is why so many private employers drug test, and why the public and Florida’s taxpayers overwhelmingly support this policy. I respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling and will pursue the case on appeal,” Scott said in a statement.

Gov. Rick Scott’s random drug testing of state workers is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled today.

Miami U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro Thursday morning ruling that random, suspicionless testing of some 85,000 workers violates the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures also raises doubts about a new state law quietly signed by Scott this spring allowing the governor’s agency heads to require urine tests of new and existing workers.

“To be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, a search ordinarily must be based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing,” Ungaro wrote in her order issued this morning, citing previous U.S. Supreme Court orders which decided that urine tests are considered government searches.

Scott issued an executive order requiring random drug testing of new hires and all state workers after he took office last year. But he suspended the tests in June after labor unions and the ACLU challenged the order, objecting that the tests are a violation of the constitutional right to protection from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Instead, Scott limited his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the Miami case.

Lawyers for AFSCME, the union representing government workers, and the ACLU argued that drug tests should only be ordered if a worker is suspected of a substance abuse problem or for employees in high-risk jobs. Previous Supreme Court decisions upheld drug testing in those jobs, Ungaro noted, or in cases involving school children.

Ungaro rejected Scott’s lawyers’ arguments and data showing that about 1 percent of workers at certain agencies who underwent the drug screens tested positive. And she was not persuaded by the governor’s arguments that private sector drug testing shows widespread drug use among workers. She also did not agree that prospective or current state workers could seek employment elsewhere if they object to the tests. New hires, but not current state workers switching jobs, could be required to take the tests, Ungaro ruled.

“All of the upheld drug-testing policies were tailored to address a specific, serious problem. In contrast, the rationale for the Governor’s policy consists of broad prognostications concerning taxpayer savings, improved public service, and reductions in health and safety risks that result from a drug-free workplace,” Ungaro wrote.

Lawyers for the union and the ACLU, who had expected Ungaro to rule as she did, nevertheless applauded the decision.

“With her order today, Judge Ungaro has protected the privacy and personal dignity of tens of thousands of Florida’s best and brightest – our state workforce,” said Alma Gonzalez, Special Counsel of AFSCME Council 79, which brought the suit. “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.”

Scott’s lawyers argued that the drug tests were necessary to combat drug abuse and ensure a more efficient workforce.

But individual rights to privacy trumped the government’s interest in those issues, Ungaro found.

“The fundamental flaw of the EO is that it infringes privacy interests in pursuit of a public interest which, in contrast to the concrete and carefully defined concerns in Skinner, Nat’l Treasury, and Vernonia, is insubstantial and largely speculative,” Ungaro wrote, referring to cases in which the Supreme Court upheld the tests.

And she also did not agree with Scott’s arguments that the drug tests were a part of Florida’s “transparent” government.

“The Governor’s reasoning is hardly transparent and frankly obscure. 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. And in any event, no court has relied upon a policy of transparent government, embodied in laws such as those cited by the Governor, as sufficient to overcome a public employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of his or her urine. This Court sees no reason to be the first,” she wrote.

The new law, a priority of Scott’s which goes into effect on July 1, allows Scott’s agency heads to order the drug tests for up to 10 percent of their workers four times a year. Lawmakers did not include any additional funding for the urine tests, which run from $5 to $40, in the measure (HB 1205) in the state’s $70 billion budget, prompting some critics to question which services agencies will cut to absorb the costs. Workers can be fired if the drug screen is confirmed positive.

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41 Responses to “UPDATE: Gov. Scott’s state worker drug testing unconstitutional, federal judge rules”

  1. Drinks and Drugs Says:

    This is unfortunate. Just look at the Secret Service and their abuses while they should be protecting the president.

    Drinking, drugging all on the taxpayers’ dime

  2. Drinks and Drugs Says:

    Let’s see, the federal government wants to put their noses in your healthcare. Making you sign affidavits if you smoke, drink and are married but if a State wants to do something about this it is prohibited.

    Wonder if Obama will protest this judges’ decision like he does the Supreme Courts

  3. Florda Legislator Says:

    What’s that “Constitution” those darn judges keep referring to?

  4. michel Says:

    Another slam dunk against a few politicians who wish to score points with their uninformed and undercover racist attitudes – except for D&D above who has no qualms about sharing with the public how shallow his points are – well – utterances excuse me.

  5. clean&fine Says:

    If it is unconstitutional for state workers, is it not then the same for private sector workers? This judge may have opened Pandora’s Box with her short-sighted decision. I expect the private sector employers don’t share her opinion.

  6. Voltaire Says:

    Got to the love those judges appointed by George Bush — those conservative activist judges!!! Ha ha ha! Can you imagine what the conservatives would be saying if the judge had been appointed by Clinton or Obama? Too funny!

  7. Taz Says:

    maybe it would not be unconstitutional if the Governor and Legislature had not exempted themselves. They’re the ones who whould be tested first. From what I’ve seen, Gov. Scott and and our Legislators are using some really good hallucinogenic drugs to enhance their perception of themselves.

  8. Scott is a Crook Says:

    My Body, My Property.
    Go %*^# yourself Scott.
    We all know the reason you did this was to score political points and to feed your old testing company which I am sure will be happy to let you buy back in once we have swiftly kicked your ass out of office.
    Once a crook always a crook.

  9. No exemptions Says:

    BAD job numbers! That’s what happens when you have failed leadership in the highest office.

    Totally agree that Governor and legislators should have been INCLUDED in the testing along with judges.

    No exemptions for elected officials.

    Just remember Obama and the democrats who had total control of our government, EXEMPTED themselves from ObamaCare.

    They didn’t want it! They preferred their Federal Healthcare!

  10. Mike Says:

    DAMNIT! ALL state employees should be required to take drug tests, just as all recieving a welfare check. This is BS. This should be voted on by the people who pay their checks. ME THE TAX PAYER!

  11. taxpayer Says:

    I have to take a drug test if I had to get a job. I have no problem with that. Govt. workers should be the same. Or do they have something to hide?

  12. Dave Says:

    Wow.. All of you are idiots… did you not read the ruling? the problem is the randomness. If dumba$$ Scott would have signed a law mandating ALL state workers have to be tested, then the law would have been ok… But the randomness of it made it unconstitutional. But be honest. All people who get a paycheck from the state should have to do it. Including Scott and all elected officials as well as state workers.

  13. Scott is a Crook Says:

    So make the elected officials take the tests too cause they are clearly on something judging from the crap that passes muster in Tallahassee.

  14. RealAngst Says:

    First of all, Government Workers DO get tested before they are hired. I have no problem with random testing and my problem with all of this is simple, if there are exemptions, there is no fairness. Want some of my urine to insure I am not using cocaine or smoking pot or taking an illegal substance? Have at it because I dont want to work with someone who is using that garbage. I know that PBSO has random testing so does this ruling make their practice illegal as well? I have long stated that if I am to be tested, Gov Scott and all the rest of those knuckleheads need to be tested too! I am betting more of them fail than us!

  15. Brotherdavid Says:

    Floor number 6, stop what your doing and come pee in a cup. That includes you Peggy the 68 year old grandmother set to retire. Why because we employ you. If the government can make you pee in a cup they better have a good reason why.

  16. Dave K Says:

    Dosen’t Scott have anything better to do? Dang fruitcake!

  17. spence Says:

    Get the Governor into rehab. He’s tripping out man!

  18. ALLEN WEST MUST GO! Says:

    We all know the governor of our state SHOULD BE ALEX SINK.

    Scott bought Tally just like Romney is trying to buy the White House.

    Except this time, the public is awake and aware of the DISGUSTING Republican Party 360-degree War on America.

  19. Jon King Says:

    Drug testing is beyond dumb. You judge on job performance, thats all. Many workers obsess about their relationships during office hours or take tons of legal prescription drugs, etc or are obese and tire by 2 pm. Lots of things negatively affect work. So what if an employee smokes some pot on the weekends.

  20. Thomas Says:

    Poor Ricky has embarrassed himself again. Every time he decides to make a new “law” designed to put the screws to state workers, s Judge has to step in a slap his hand. Considering this guy made his living as a lawyer, you’d think he’d be a little more up on the law. Oh well. this is what you get when you put an idiot without ethics into a position of authority.

  21. Jay Says:

    OK, as a NON state worker who is required by FEDERAL LAW to get drug tested, this judge is as full of sh$t as the rest of the Obummer administration

  22. booradley Says:

    And I prefer not to work with functional alchoholics. Why don’t you screen for that? Because you’d have to put 1/4 of ALL workers-public and private on rehab. BAC for functional alchoholics will show above .08 even when “not drinking”. Oh it’s a “legal” drug so that makes it ok to be a functional alchoholic? HYPOCRITES.

  23. pbcoguy Says:

    Could we get them to either take a drug test or an IQ test?

  24. I did not vot 4 him Says:

    If you want to know what Rick Scott is all about watch this video.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGcBV2Th1Z4

  25. RealAngst Says:

    @Jay..hey, did you know that the judge in this case was appointed by then Gov BUSH? Yeah, I didnt think so. Its all politics with Scott and blaming Obama is NOT the solution. He doesnt function at “our” level and no POTUS ever has. So stop with the “I hate the POTUS so its all his fault” stuff because even YOU know it is nonsense!

  26. Fed Up Says:

    I work for a public agency and was tested as a condition to my employment and signed that I would submit if asked. Any person in a safty sensitive position is drug tested on a regular basis others when behaviors arise that are suspect. It works fine. The gov is just trying to please a few people. Is it true that the welfare testing is costing the state more than it is saving?

  27. Stupid Ruling Says:

    What are these people hiding that they don’t want to take a simple drug test? It’s stupid, some people argue just to argue.

  28. Fred Says:

    People, People, People…..get a grip! Randomly drug testing state employees for no other reason than ‘the public sector is doing it’? Give me a break! This is clearly a 4th amendment violation, and I thank god that the federal judge in Miami had sense enough to knock it down!

    You folks don’t seem to realize that you would be the ones paying for these drug tests with your tax dollars!

    On a more personal note….it will be a cold day in h-ll before I pee in a cup, just to appease a governor who acts like a nazi……….just because he says so? I don’t think so! I’m one of those state workers…. I get excellent evaluations, and take pride in my work. I refuse to be treated like a common drug addict, just because the governor thinks we all should pee in a cup!

    Also, head up people…..it’s already started in this state……I went to the doctors office, have been diagnosed with severe arthritis in the neck, shoulders, lower back, and knees. Yet I am still working full time, and in pain all the time. Why? Because my doctor refused to give me pain medicine, unless I’m willing to pee in a cup every 3 months. When I asked her what for, she replied, ” Because Florida law states that if we give out pain pills on a regular basis, that we have to drug test you for ‘illegal’ drugs, and to ensure that you are taking the medicine as prescribed. Well, needless to say, I declined the pain medication, because if I’m not willing to pee in a cup for the Governor, I’m sure as hell not going to do it because doctors are afraid of losing their license…..and that’s because of these stupid Florida laws, that are doing all of us more harm than good! Doctors are now afraid to give out medicine that was developed to help us live longer, and live without pain. But because of these stupid laws, doctors around here are afraid to do their jobs!

    I’ll move out of the state, before I allow anyone to take away my 4th amendment right!

    And for the record……as long as ANY employee doesn’t go to work ‘under the influence, or impaired’……as far as I’m concerned….what folks do in the privacy of their own homes……on their own time……IS NO ONE ELSES BUSINESS!!!!!!

    PEACE!

  29. RealAngst Says:

    @ Stupid Ruling….I have NO problem being tested, what I object to is those who are making the laws exempting themselves from it. As a side note, those tests cost $$$$ and all the braying about taxpayer money paying the salary of these men and women is pure bunk! On a local level is is LESS THAN 4 cents a YEAR and and on the State level, less than a PENNY! So STFU and go get tested because either way, you are paying for it. State workers dont get TAX EXEMPTIONS with the job, so who exactly is profiting from these tests? Why Gov Scott’s wife is, thereby HE is and it is just wrong. If you carry a gun, are a first responder of any kind, test em all day as much as you like. The average secretary? Maint staff? Really?

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