The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida is challenging in federal court Governor Rick Scott’s (R) executive order forcing all state employees in Executive Branch agencies to undergo drug testing without regard to suspicion of illegal drug use.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit (PDF) on Tuesday on behalf of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 79, which represents 50,000 public workers.
Scott issued an executive order in March requiring that all state employees be subjected to urine analysis once every quarter. The order is expected to cost Florida taxpayers over $3.5 million.
The ACLU said the order was unconstitutional, noting a 2004 ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who found Florida’s Dept. of Juvenile Justice in violation of the Fourth Amendment when it required random drug screenings for its employees and awarded the plaintiff in that case $150,000.
“I’m not sure if Governor Scott does not know that the policy he ordered has already been declared unconstitutional or if he just doesn’t care,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “But I do know that the state of Florida cannot force people to surrender their constitutional rights in order to work for the state.”
Current law and court rulings allow for public employees in positions that are safety-related or require operating dangerous machinery to be subjected to drug screenings, but courts have ruled against blanket tests for all employees.
“The government has to have a reason to search you and simply working for the state isn’t enough,” said ACLU cooperating attorney Peter Walsh. “If earning a government check was enough to suspect someone of drug abuse, everyone who received any state benefit from walking a sidewalk to drinking clean water could be subject to an invasive government search.”
Eric W. Dolan
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