Florida Employee Drug Testing Must Be Reviewed: Court

Specific government job categories must be considered for mandatory drug testing in Florida, an appeals court concluded in a ruling that said a judge went too far in blocking enforcement of across-the-board public employee screening ordered by the state’s governor.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta said in its ruling today that a Miami federal judge must reconsider the matter, and weigh, for example, whether employees who carry firearms or operate heavy machinery or large vehicles may be subjected to the required tests.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 79, sued Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, in 2011 to challenge his executive order requiring drug testing of state employees at agencies under his control, as well as pre-employment screening. The union contended the testing violates constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Florida’s policy mandating “suspicionless drug testing” of as many as 85,000 state employees “almost certainly sweeps far too broadly and hence runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment in many of its applications,” the appeals court said.

At the same time, the lower court’s ruling “also swept too broadly and captured both the policy’s constitutional applications and its unconstitutional ones,” according to the three-judge panel’s ruling.

‘Humiliating Searches’

“It would be foolish of the governor to continue pushing to implement his across-the-board drug testing regime when the court clearly states that, under the Fourth Amendment, many of the individuals covered by the executive order cannot be subjected to invasive and humiliating searches just because they are government employees,” Shalini Goel Agarwal, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in an e-mailed statement. Agarwal is lead attorney representing the union that brought the lawsuit.

“Many Floridians are required to take drug tests in their workplace and it is only right for state workers paid with taxpayer funds to be required to do the same,” Scott said in an e-mailed statement. “The court did the right thing today by reversing the injunction on our executive order for drug testing state employees.”

The case is American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 79 v. Scott, 12-12908, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Atlanta).

To contact the reporters on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net and Christine Sexton at christinesextonwork@hotmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Blumberg at pblumberg1@bloomberg.net

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