ACLU Keeps Drug-Testing Challenges Coming
Around the State
Hours after arguing another drug testing case before a federal appellate court in Atlanta, the ACLU of Florida announced Thursday it has filed a separate federal lawsuit in Pensacola for a DeFuniak Springs employee fired for refusing to take a random drug test required by the city.
Filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, the lawsuit challenges a 2010 city ordinance that requires city employees to submit to random urine tests in order to keep their jobs.
When his name came up in September for random testing, City Planner Greg Scoville declined to participate, according to the complaint. He was fired in September.
"Working for the government does not mean you surrender your constitutional rights for that privilege,” said ACLU staff attorney Benjamin Stevenson, in a statement Thursday. “While some private employers may not hold themselves to the same standards, the U.S. Constitution protects us from government intrusions, so when your employer is the government, the Constitution applies at the workplace too."
DeFuniak Springs city manager Sara Bowers declined to comment on the suit.
This is the second time this year the ACLU has represented parties challenging mandatory random drug testing of government employees in Florida. It also followed an April ruling by a federal judge in Miami throwing out a similar requirement placed on employees working for Gov. Rick Scott.
In that case, brought by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ruled Scott's attempt to test tens of thousands of workers overstepped federal Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.
"In the present case, the court searches in vain for any … compelling need for testing,'' Ungaro ruled. The (executive order) does not identify a concrete danger that must be addressed by suspicionless drug testing of state employees, and the governor shows no evidence of a drug use problem at the covered agencies."
The state appealed that ruling.
"I believe that drug testing state employees is a common-sense means of ensuring a safe, efficient and productive work force,'' Scott said in a statement following Ungaro's ruling in April. "That is why so many private employers drug test and why the public and Florida's taxpayers overwhelmingly support this policy."
The DeFuniak Springs case was filed on the eve of oral arguments in another drug testing case being challenged by the ACLU. On Thursday, a panel of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta took oral arguments from attorneys over a 2011 state law requiring applicants for federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families to pass drug tests in order to receive federal cash benefits.
A federal judge in Orlando threw out the law in October 2011, saying the governor had failed to adequately justify the public need for suspiciounless drug testing of TANF applicants, who beside seeking public aid largely mirror the population in general.
In the case, the ACLU of Florida challenged the drug testing program on behalf of Luis Lebron, a Navy veteran and single father living in Orlando who applied for temporary assistance in July 2011, to support his 4-year-old son.
U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven halted enforcement of the law on Oct. 24, 2011, stating that the compelled drug testing is a search under the Fourth Amendment and requires reasonable suspicion.
There's no certain timeline for the federal appeals court in Atlanta to rule on that appeal.
"Drugs are antithetical to both goals, and thus drug testing furthers the program's purposes. …'' the state's appellate brief stated."… Moreover, drug testing is commonly required in today's society -- particularly in the very job market that TANF prepares participants to enter."