Rick Scott: I Will Appeal Drug Test Ruling

By: Jim Turner | Posted: April 27, 2012 3:55 AM
Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. United States Courthouse

Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. United States Courthouse in Miami, Florida | Credit: e-architect.co.uk

The governor says he will appeal a federal ruling that declared it is unconstitutional to randomly test people on the state payroll for drug use.

Gov. Rick Scott, whose executive order was under question, noted the ruling does not include new hires and he will contest the decision by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro in Miami.

Ungaro, in a 37-page order signed Wednesday, declared Scott’s executive order from March 2011 calling for the random drug testing of state workers a violation of employees' Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.

The requirement for random drug testing, which Scott implemented last year, has been on hold since last June after the order was challenged by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 79.

In a statement Thursday, Scott disagreed with Ungaro’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 work force,” Scott stated. “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.”

In her ruling, Ungaro declared that Scott had failed to justify the need for the tests.

“In the present case, the court searches in vain for any similarly compelling need for testing,” Ungaro wrote. “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.”

Challengers to the law, which also included the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, declared victory with Ungaro’s final order, stating that the governor needed to have more of a reason to implement drug testing than simply “being against drugs.”

“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 work force,” stated Alma Gonzalez, special counsel of AFSCME Council 79, in a release.

“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 has also placed a hold on a state law, HB 1205 he signed March 19, that backed up the order, requiring the random testing of 10 percent of the work force every three months.

The governor’s office did not respond to a question about how the ruling will impact HB 1205.

However, the ACLU, noting that the “governor can’t demand that people surrender their constitutional rights for the privilege of working for the state or receiving some other government benefit,” wrote they are prepared to challenge the law.

“If the state moves ahead with drug testing applicants for state employment in what is clearly an unconstitutional policy, they will just be inviting another costly, taxpayer-financed legal challenge,” Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU-FL, posted in a release on the organization’s website. “Florida leaders appear to have a hard time understanding that the government can’t search people just because a politician thinks it will be popular.”

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (6)

12:11AM MAY 12TH 2012
If employers can have drug free workplace and a receive discounts. Why are the state employees objecting? There should be no problem, right? What is wrong with the Governor asking the same from state employees and people receiving state welfare. Especially welfare. If you take money from the government you should not use that money to buy drugs.
12:12AM MAY 2ND 2012
Perhaps we should start requiring politicians to pay for the costs of such challenges out of their own pockets once their position has been found to be unconstitutional, and not be allowed to continue to use the peoples' money to try and mandate by decree such unnecessary (and found illegal) testing.
Pat Bowles
10:18AM APR 29TH 2012
How can a judge not allow Florida State employees to be drug tested when Maryland randomly requires state employees to be drug tested?
If it is against the 4th amendment for Florida, why isn't it against the 4th amendment in Maryland?
1:42PM APR 29TH 2012
The Maryland law is NOT the Florida law. It has to comply with the reasonableness test. In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Treasury Employees v. Von Raab, 489 U.S. 656 (1989), the high court ruled that requiring employees to produce urine samples constituted a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, all such testing must meet the "reasonableness" requirement of the Fourth Amendment (which protects citizens against "unreasonable" searches and seizures).

That's one of the areas where Florida's law failed.
10:42AM APR 27TH 2012
"Unconstitutional Scott" - so where is this all ultimately going - ah, maybe next it's all FRS retirees in for drug testiing - want to make sure those oldees aren't the wrong type of druggees . . . after all, they're on the public dole and on drugs already, so they shouldn't complain about paying for a little additional drug testing . . . then all them students at public universities - we know they're all druggies . . .and we want to cut down on the number of educated kids anyway . . . and besides, my drug testing companies rake in big bucks with all this drug testing . . .

So how many unconstitutional findings is this in the first year for our Governor . . . . can't remember whether it's 6 or 7 or even higher . . . .nothing like living up to that oath of office he took . . . .
devinn lazarus
7:48AM APR 27TH 2012
Scott walker is a very sad man who gets off on seeing others suffer. He was probably that kid who wouldn't let the other kids playn with his ball.

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