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Federal Judge Rules Gov. Rick Scott’s Random Drug-Testing of State Workers Unconstitutional

| April 26, 2012

urine tests gov. rick scott florida drug testing state workers employees federal law

Keep it sealed.

A Miami federal judge has ruled that Gov. Rick Scott’s attempt to require random drug testing for tens of thousands of state workers is unconstitutional, saying Scott did not show a “compelling need” for the controversial plan.

After U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro’s ruling became public Thursday, Scott immediately said he would appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ungaro’s 37-page ruling found that Scott’s issuance last year of an executive order requiring drug tests violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects against unreasonable searches. The judge also wrote that Scott did not justify a need for the tests.

“In the present case, the court searches in vain for any … compelling need for testing,” said the ruling, which was dated Wednesday. “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.”

Scott issued a written statement reiterating his longstanding position that drug tests will improve the state workforce, and he compared the situation to private employers who have more freedom to require such tests.

“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,” Scott said. “That is why so many private employers drug test and why the public and Florida’s taxpayers overwhelmingly support this policy.”

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — a state-worker union that was the plaintiff in the case — said Ungaro’s ruling protects the privacy and constitutional rights of employees.

“The governor can’t order the state to search people’s bodily fluids for no reason – the Constitution prohibits that sort of government intrusion,” said Howard Simon, the ACLU’s executive director. “And 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.”

Scott issued the executive order last year to require drug testing at agencies under his control, though the plan was placed on hold because of the legal challenge, except for some workers at the Department of Corrections. Ungaro’s ruling said the Scott-controlled agencies include about 85,000 employees, or 77 percent of the state workforce.


Despite the legal uncertainty, lawmakers and Scott this year approved a bill that would allow drug testing of employees. The bill would allow, but not require, agencies to conduct random testing every three months.

But a day after signing the bill in March, Scott’s administration said it would delay moving forward with the tests until the legal battle about last year’s executive order is resolved.

While Ungaro’s ruling blocks drug testing for current state employees, she did not rule on whether tests could be required for potential new hires. She sided with an argument by Scott that AFSCME could not sue on behalf of potential state employees who do not belong to the union.

The ACLU’s Simon, however, made clear Thursday that the state would face another legal challenge if it tries to require drug testing of job applicants.

Ungaro’s ruling said the U.S. Supreme Court has differentiated between drug testing by government and private employers. She wrote that government searches “must be based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing,” unless the government can show a special need.

“The Supreme Court maintains that the government, unlike private employers, can test its employees for illegal drug use only when the testing is consistent with the Fourth Amendment,” wrote Ungaro, who has served as federal judge since 1992 after being nominated by former President George H.W. Bush.

The ruling said Scott cited potential benefits of drug testing, such as increasing workplace health and safety, promoting greater productivity by employees and saving tax dollars. But she wrote that the governor’s office used studies that had a “high level of generality” and lacked specific evidence about issues such as drug use among state employees.

“All of the upheld drug-testing policies (in Supreme Court cases) were tailored to address a specific, serious problem,” Ungaro wrote. “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.”

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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17 Responses for “Federal Judge Rules Gov. Rick Scott’s Random Drug-Testing of State Workers Unconstitutional”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    Score Board By Now: Workers 1, Governor 0.
    Kudos to Honorable Judge Ungaro! Congratulation to our Florida public employees!
    Governor wasting our hard earned taxes on attorneys to sustain his fascist new policies! Meanwhile trying to gain test contracts revenue for Solantic?

  2. Jojo says:

    I applaud U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro’s ruling.

    The ruling only covers 77% of the State workforce and excludes Gov. Scott’s upper level management which is suspect for singling out entry level State workers.

    It is also a slap in the face to non union emplyees who ride the gravy train in FL who piggy back on union paying dues members and receive the same benefits. Judge Ungaro bristles, ” She sided with an argument by Scott that AFSCME could not sue on behalf of potential state employees who do not belong to the union.”

    I had hoped she would slao rule on Scott’s wife having a conflict of interest in the drug testing scheme that was transferred by Gov Scott to his wife.

  3. DP says:

    Another win for the Public Sector employee, and another added “EXPENSE” to the tax payer as this idiot would say. When are the citizens of Florida going to wake up and see what he’s costing us the “TAX PAYER?” Another legal appeal that we are paying for. It’s time we vote him out. I can say for sure I didn’t vote for him. And YES I’m a government employee who’s still barely living on 2006 wages. GET OUT SCOTT before you ruin Florida and my family.

  4. just me says:

    If the state workers are not doing anything wrong then what is the problem with giving up a little pee ???? If they are not going to test the state workers then will they test a NEW HIRE??

    • CR says:

      As I state worker, I have no problem with testing new hires or even if I were to switch jobs. However, we waste much more money on big private vendor contracts (where not all employees are drug-tested either) where we never get the product that is in the contract, we waste money on changing systems just when we have worked the kinks out of system with a previous vendor, we waste money on appointed staff (that can be appointed all the way down to middle management) that we have to attempt to educate each time with one-pagers because they have extremely short attention spans. If I have never trained or been near a space mission, I wouldn’t want someone giving me a one-pager to go out into space on our space shuttle and those instructions have take-off, mission duties, critical things i need to do, and re-entry all in a one-pager. Yet, as I said, while not as critical, we let appointed inexperienced individuals all the time to manage multimillion and sometime multibillion budgets and contracts. If I were billionaire, who wanted to build a bridge, I would want it physically designed and built by engineers and architects, not former bankers, political contributors, staffers, and CEOs. If I have a good mechanic, that doesn’t mean he is the best surgeon for removing a hernia as well. We don’t even bring in [good] mechanics.

      Next, multiple reports show that the state of Florida citizens get more bang for their buck than MOST any other state in the union. If you count FTEs only then we are #1 or dead last (whichever way you look at it). In addition to that, citizens of Florida pay the least ($38). See PDF pages 8 thru 12 on this report: http://www.dms.myflorida.com/human_resource_support/human_resource_management/for_state_hr_practitioners/reports .
      Anything done has been set by the same political party for the last 12 years (and counting). I will be the first to admit that we have some people in state government who are in it for themselves only, some are lazy and disengaged, some are incompetent and every other negative adjective you can assign. However, having worked in private sector and having friends work still work in private sector, it is no different. In state government, we also have people who are extremely intelligent, hard-working, giving and every other positive adjective you can assign.

      I said all this to say, I am not a drug user and if anyone else is using drugs, then they are doing a good job hiding it (unless it was that mechanic brought in to do my operation). So randomly testing me is like testing a woman for prostate cancer or testing a man for cervical cancer. Either one is a waste of money. But if the law ends up standing, I could care less, just more of your $38 will be spent on something another totally useless project, and it at least it won’t be going towards my wage which has been frozen for the last 5 years.

    • just a thought says:

      If you are not doing anything wrong you would have no problem for a cop to say “I want to search your ‘house’ ‘car’ ‘body’ ‘etc’? If your answer is yes then let me ask you this: If you are a black man would it be OK for a cop to ask the same question?

    • DP says:

      @ just me,
      It’s called the Fourth Amendment. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.When I was a government employee I was required when hired to submit to a urine sample/test, and was glad to provide as I didn’t have anything to hide. And also while employed was subjected to a urine test if I was involved in an accident or injured on the job. Again no problem with that as it was a condition of continued employment. I can bet this practice is already in place for State workers, and maybe some private sector employee’s to. If it’s no problem then I suggest then you submit a little “PEE”, or are you going to claim your “RIGHTS”? Again another intrusion into the private lives of the same taxpaying, under paid government employees. Wake up Floridians before this fool bleeds us same “TAXPAYERS” he claims to be protecting, dry of all our money with his stupid “WAG” that he knows what’s best for us. He’s incompetent.

  5. Mike says:

    I’ll be more intrigued when Rick Scott will be forced to give back the 3% he stole from government workers. Then you will see another gaping hole in the deficit larger than the one in his head. Not to mention the interest he will owe these hard working individuals. I’m so glad I take no responsibility in him getting into office. What an embarrassment.

    • Z says:

      The only embarrassment here is not understanding that WE the people felt that WE the people shouldn’t be putting all the money away for STATE employees retirement. So who was the money REALLY being stolen from? The MILKING of the tax payer train is over. The “drug testing” is no big deal and should be required. If you don’t do drugs you have nothing to worry about and neither do any of the tax payers who have to travel on the same roads behind or in front of state vehicles. We won’t have to pay any outrageous WC claims for people who were under the influence and got hurt on the job either. Gee, I wonder why the public sector decided it was important?

  6. Bob Z. says:

    In response to “just me says”: It costs money to drug test people so if there is not an apparent problem why should the tax payers pay for that testing? Private employers are free to test all they want, and the cost of such testing comes out of their bottom lines so if they want to spend the money so be it.

    And now we, the tax payers, will have to foot the bill by paying lawyers to appeal another useless proposal by our Gov.!

  7. What the government CAN do is test workers right after an accident, workers who carry weapons, and workers who have responsibility for the safety of our children. Those special circumstances are not present 99% of the time. So, as pointed out by the Court Order, this was not justified, and there was no compelling need for it.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    @Justathought. Even if I have nothing to hide, I would not feel that comfortable with a cop asking me to search my house, car or body. I do not think anyone would. Imagine my friends and neighbors seeing me being searched like that without a legal reason or without a judge order, wouldn’t it be kind of shameful?
    Many years ago I saved several residents lives by stopping on the scene of an accident and parking my car with the lights on as a shield, protecting those people from incoming traffic while calling and waiting for the cops to arrive. Days later a FHP investigator called to meet me for questioning as witness and he offered me to meet at Dennys, as he said in order not to concern my neighbors about me, with his presence in full uniform and FHP cruise. Adding that the FHP was appreciative of me stopping and saving those peoples lives, as not all do, over concerns to be called to testify on a trial. Even then he was aware of conflictive image.

  9. rickg says:

    To all of those who think that there’s nothing wrong with making employees take drug tests without cause, what if we treated the 2nd Amendment in the same fashion as you would like the state to treat the 4th? Perhaps state employees should declare how many firearms are in their house. If they’re not hiding any what’s the harm? The right to privacy and protection against illegal search and seizures is just as important if not more so than owning a hand gun.

  10. Geezer says:

    Rick Scott should be found as “unconstitutional.”

  11. palmcoaster says:

    Kudos to rickg!! I could only give you one “like” otherwise, would have given you by the dozen. I never even thought of that one…very very real.
    When are we going to be able to have elected officials that will vote for “the peoples rights” and exercise their duties for the betterment of us all in our land, other than for themselves and special interest? Where our love for our land and its people gotten lost? Can we all see that for most and over 10 years the economy, (results of the higher up fraud), is on a free fall?

  12. Art Woosley says:

    [Comment disallowed.

    "Art Woosley," you need to stop commenting at FlaglerLive under that name, which is the actual name of a Flagler Beach resident and occasional commenter at FlaglerLive whom you're impersonating and slandering by way of your usually crude comments. He's alerted us to your ploy. We're informing you that your comments will not be approved under that name. If you're unwilling to comply, your IP address will be blocked. Thanks.--FL]

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