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He Won’t Give Up: Scott Taking Drug Testing of State Employees to U.S. Supreme Court

| January 15, 2014

Rick Scott is how own drug czar. (Jaxport)

Rick Scott is how own drug czar. (Jaxport)

Arguing that Florida has an “overriding interest in a drug-free workforce,” Gov. Rick Scott has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of a drug-testing policy for tens of thousands of state employees.

Lawyers for Scott filed a petition Monday asking the Supreme Court to hear the case, after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled against across-the-board drug testing.

In the petition, the Scott administration pointed to the use of drug testing by private employers and said illegal drug use “increases financial costs, creates safety hazards, and impairs productivity.”

“The constitutionality of Florida’s drug testing policy is not only unsettled —it is an important issue the court should decide now,” said the petition seeking Supreme Court review. “The Eleventh Circuit has intruded upon Florida’s sovereign right to ensure the general welfare of its citizens and regulate its workforce.”

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which challenged the constitutionality of the policy, blasted the Scott administration for continuing to pursue the drug tests. They pointed to repeated past rulings against such drug testing.

“We are prepared to demonstrate to the U.S. Supreme Court, as it has found before, that the state has no authority to require people to submit their bodily fluids for government inspection and approval without reason or suspicion.” ACLU of Florida attorney Shalini Goel Agarwal said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

Since taking office in 2011, Scott has made a high-profile issue of requiring drug tests for state employees and welfare recipients. But federal courts have ruled against him on both issues, as opponents have argued that government drug tests violate the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

A federal district judge in 2012 ruled that the state-worker drug testing was unconstitutional and blocked the Scott administration from carrying out the policy. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last year was more nuanced, saying that drug tests could be justified for some employees whose duties raise safety concerns.

But the appeals court also indicated that drug tests could not be justified constitutionally for many of the 85,000 workers who could be subject to Scott’s policy. The appeals court sent the case back to a lower court, with directions to sort through job categories to determine which workers could be tested.

In recent months, the state and opponents “have been engaged in the arduous process of dividing state employees into job categories so that they can later, absent this court’s intervention, litigate over each job category,” the administration said in the petition to the Supreme Court.

It remains unclear whether justices will even decide to hear the case. But in the petition, Scott’s lawyers argued that Florida’s “important interests outweigh public employees’ limited expectation of privacy in this setting.”

“Requiring government employees and job applicants to consent to drug testing is not an unconstitutional condition because there is a rational connection between the requirement and the important state interest in a drug-free workplace,” the petition said.

But Jeanette Wynn, president of AFSCME Council 79, which represents state workers, said Scott “appears to want to continue the attack on hard working men and women of this state.”

“Once again, Governor Scott is wasting taxpayer dollars on an issue that has already been decided and goes against common sense,” she said in a prepared statement.

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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23 Responses for “He Won’t Give Up: Scott Taking Drug Testing of State Employees to U.S. Supreme Court”

  1. A.S.F. says:

    Scott wants his piece of the pie and the drug testing mandate would give him all that and more, for years and years to come. He and his wife are looking to cash in. Some things never change…Including the fact that Narcissists like this can very easily convince themselves that whatever is in their personal self interest is also what is automatically in the best interests of the world at large around them. If you don’t agree, they’ll try to squash you like a bug.

  2. fruitcake says:

    So state employees are different from private sector employees when it comes to drug testing how?
    and you can’t begin a new job without drug testing so why are welfare people treated differently…
    do we want people on welfare or state employees who have a drug habit/problem getting paid to continue their drug habits? I sure don’t! I work hard to pay my taxes to pay for both groups!

  3. m&m says:

    Good for him. It should also include people on welfare and other entitlements..

  4. Gia says:

    For that he is right. Any gov. employees should be subject to drug screening just like any other private company.

    • Bruce Paulk says:

      The private sector is not the government and cannot convict you of a crime if you test positive; they can only deny you a job. The state government could and probably would charge someone with a positive test result of a crime. That’s why, barring evidence or other extenuating circumstances, the 4th amendment of the US Constitution is there.

  5. Yellowstone says:

    Someone scream: “Double standard!”

    Governor Scott, sir, may I ask you, “what have you done with that Republican US-representative from Cape Coral, Fl who was recently caught on the streets of DC for cocaine purchase and possession?”

    There’s a creep for ya – and you don’t even have to drug test him.

    So what we going to do about it . . ?

  6. A.S.F. says:

    Not all private sectors employers require drug testing. Why should government employees be held to a different standard? if you receive Medicare or Social Security, should I scream to require YOU to be drug (and alcohol) tested since my tax dollars and withholding on MY paychecks are paying for the entitlements YOU are getting? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

  7. Out of Curiosity says:

    How much is all of this costing the state?

  8. Diana L says:

    Why isn’t he asking for drug testing for himself and staff, all legislators,-state, city and county, congress people, Senators, oh, hell let’s drug test every resident. That would really line the coffers of your drug testing family and friend’s companies. Hey , maybe it could have caught Trey Radel, oh, I bet he would have gotten those results to squash.
    I think I can safely say none of us want our welfare money to be used for drugs. The facts are not there, we have been there, done that, and it was a bust.
    We all know the saying, doing the same thing over and over and expecting deferent results mean.
    Playing to his base has to be the reason for this. I pray that the people that support this research this and see that this is a loser for all of us. Stop the insanity.

    • A.S.F. says:

      …And we all know that how outraged Conservatives are about the big bad government’s intrusion into the lives of private citizens…Oh, except in those cases where they aren’t…like forcing ultrasounds on pregnant women who seek an abortion or requiring piss-tests of anyone receiving any entitlement other than Social Security and Medicare.

  9. Rick says:

    It might just be similar to the company I was employed by awhile back. Certain positions that had & used company vehicles were mandated for drug test. Liability reasons I can go along with.
    Then some new 4 yr collegeboy came up with the brilliant idea to have the whole company tested. Ha! Had that ever evolved half the company would’ve been terminated. Efing hypocrites at their best.
    But, as far as I’m concerned welfare recipients are another story & should be tested, regularly. I, as well as many others, have a serious problem supporting their illegal habits, if any are in fact being had.

  10. Reaganomicon says:

    I’ve posted this once before, but people really need to understand this so I’ll post it again.

    Drug testing is stupid and meaningless, and here’s why. Suppose that you are the fine state of Florida, and you administer your drug test to employees. Lo and behold, you discover that Joe Blow, a 40 year old man, has tested positive for weed on the “99.9% effective” drug test that you have administered to him. The 99.9% efficacy might lead you to believe that a positive test means, with 99.9% certainty, that Joe smokes weed and therefore should be fired

    It doesn’t, and here’s why. Your drug test might be 99.9% effective at detecting someone that has used marijuana recently (a true positive), but you aren’t thinking about the false positives, or the demographics of marijuana use of people that are 40 years old. A given drug test might see false positives 5-10% of the time, and statistically, a staggering 4.8% of people between 35-49 years old have used in the last month (2007 stats). When you correctly take those things into account, the chance that Joe smoked weed recently enough to set your test off is 33.5% with a 10% false positive rate, or 50.2% with a 5% false positive rate. And this is assuming that the lab doing the testing is handling things correctly.

    For those of you that are less numerically adept, here’s what this means. At best, there’s about a 50-50 chance that Joe, a 40 year old man, smoked weed and tested positive on a drug test that is 99.9% effective. What’s sad about that fact is that the vast, vast, vast majority of the populace would think that Joe is without a doubt a drug user, and conservative politicians are capitalizing on the average person’s disdain for state employees and people on welfare and their lack of understanding with respect to statistics to make this seem like a Good Thing, when in reality it’s no better (and in many cases far worse) than literally just flipping a coin and saying “heads, you’re fired.”

  11. confidential says:

    Then test them all from the Governor and down. Sure his wife lab testing business will become gazillionaire. Same old same old …like when defrauding Medicare thru Columbia Health Care.

  12. Willing State Employee says:

    I am more than happy to comply with drug-testing for my employment. I have had to do this to secure a job at a CALL CENTER, so naturally I would be willing to do this when I am considered an agent of the state!

    As far as welfare recipients being required to pass drug tests, if you cannot afford to pay your own bills and feed your own children, where in the heck are you getting money to go get drugs from? Your welfare includes free medical, so if it was a drug necessary for you to be taking (note: NOT marijuana in Florida, and NOT cocaine/crack/meth/etc), your appointed doctor thru your Medicaid plan would prescribe it for you, and you would have the prescription to present to pass the drug screen for your state benefits! THIS is the problem that has caused the last two generations to feel this inappropriate sense of “entitlement”. Welfare benefits are NOT a permanent solution nor a RIGHT and LUXURY– they are a temporary fix to help you get on your feet and make a better life for you and your family. How do you ever expect to find/keep a job if you are too busy out getting loaded? Since welfare is to help you get back into the workforce and become self-sufficient, it is only fair to make sure you would pass that important drug test that will be required for employers to hire you. After all, you have to comply with WAGES in order to get cash-assistance, right? Same thing!

    Everyone is so up-in-arms and ready to complain about how this is an “invasion of our privacy” and yada yada yada. Well, you would be the first to complain if the bus driver taking your children to school got into an accident and caused even one child fatality simply because he was impaired with a metric butt-load of opiates in his system. So, why not just try to protect that child from the on-set, and test the employees? I wouldn’t get into a cab with a driver that was intoxicated. I wouldn’t want to be on an airplane with a pilot that was stoned out of his mind. And I certainly wouldn’t want someone responsible for my child’s safety/welfare incapable of good decision-making when it counts.

    • A.S.F. says:

      @Willing State Employee says–Using your own philosophy, this is what I also propose for people receiving Social Security and Medicare Benefits. As an employed tax payer, I am currently contributing to what you receive and not on a temporary basis either–for the rest of your life, regardless of your level of need really is or what amount of money you may have contributed, if anything. Therefore, here is what I think is fair to demand of YOU. Since I, and other working stiffs like me, are now paying most of the burden of your medical bills, you should be screened often to make sure you are not abusing alcohol (let alone anything else.) The testing should be mandatory and regular for as long as you continue to receive Medicare. You should not be permitted to smoke cigarettes and, if it found that you do, you should not be permitted to keep receiving Medicare, at least not for any condition that might be due to your smoking (which could be just about anything.) Also, you should be weighed frequently and, if your eating habits are determined to be contributory to obesity, you should be required to lose weight or risk having your benefits cut off. After all, why should my hard earned tax dollars be wasted supporting your bad habits? I am sure that some of you are purchasing those unhealthy foodstuffs and cigarettes with the money you receive from your Social Security checks. I don’t feel it’s fair that I should be paying for you to pollute the air and run up your medical bills with all your negative habits that I am helping to pay the freight for. In other words, try applying your own standards to yourself and YOU might not end up looking like such a rose. Why should you expect others to have any more belief in, or tolerance towards, you than you have for them? As I said before, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Or, it should be.

  13. Joey Paparazzi says:

    Saw this on the Hufington Post a week ago which sums up my view to people like Fruitcake.

    Jane S. (peacekitten)


    Political Pundit · 4,951 Fans · primum non nocere.
    i am more than happy to see my tax dollars go towards things like quality public education for all, the arts, good roads, health care for all, providing for the poor and vulnerable, fire departments, public safety, clean water, clean air, a protected environment, a safe food supply, shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry, certain kinds of scientific research that doesn’t test on animals, and jobs for the unemployed.
    but as far as using my tax dollars for more welfare to the rich and corporations, i’d rather rot in jail and never give them another dime. they’ll have to pry it from my cold dead fingers first. these people who demonize the poor and struggling while portraying themselves as victims are just not to be tolerated in a civilised society any more. they are leeches, without the therapeutic uses. they need to be marginalized, so that real people can once again live and thrive, rather than trying to merely survive.
    i’ve never yet met anyone who WANTED to be poor, or unemployed, or unable to go to the doctor when they are sick. to keep insisting that people don’t work because they don’t want to shows such a profound contempt for other people, it’s insane.
    why ANYONE thinks that a person *aspires* to be someone who draws a maximum of $189 a month in food stamps, an average of less than $300 a month in welfare, if they’re lucky, a social security check of less than $15,000 a year, IF they’re lucky, after going through all the STUNNING humiliation one is put through in order to gain access to public assistance, is just mind-boggling. NOBODY wants to live that way. NOBODY wants to be poor, to have to tell their children they can’t have cake for their birthday, to be begging others for change so they can eat.
    it’s become a national sport in this country to kick people when they’re down and blame them for their own problems even when they’re due to illness, layoffs and the like. i was brought up to believe that the lowest thing you could do to someone else was to kick them when they were down, even if they were your enemy. the fact that doing so is now been turned into a VIRTUE in this country is indicative of just how low we’ve sunk.
    we ought to be ashamed. and then we need to start acting like decent people and HELP people get back on their feet instead of putting a foot across the back of their necks while berating them for not being able to get up.

  14. barbie says:

    All of you are missing the point on this. Way back when it was determined just fine to examine and scrutinize your bodily fluid, so that you might obtain gainful employment, we should have raised hell then. THIS WAS NEVER OK. Ever. The state does not have an overriding interest here and they never did, **unless one is working at a job in which being inebriated on some substance–legal or not–is a direct and immediate threat to public safety**. Sitting behind a desk, pushing spreadsheets or working as a waitress, or as a clerk in a store, or as an accountant for a company, or as a code-writer for software or thousands of other careers–it is ridiculous to have to pee test for these positions. And wrong. It should have never gotten as far as it has.

    This is what is known as a slippery slope, folks. When this kind of thing was first okayed by the Supreme Court, they erred, pure and simple. And down the rabbit hole we went. And now, to listen to some of you, people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own (thanks to fatcats who offshored practically our entire middle class to other countries), in order for those folks to be worthy of eating or worthy of shelter means ones urine must be pure. Unbelievable.

    You’ve all been conditioned into this and you don’t even think twice, the knee just starts jerking with a mighty “but….but….I have to pee into a cup, WHY SHOULDN’T YOU?”.

  15. Observer says:

    How long before we can get rid of this guy ……………….

    • Diana L. says:

      IMHO, not soon enough. But, it won’t be easy to get rid of him. He has a lot of money, sponsored by the Koch’s and he is working hard to make us believe he is a human being. To get rid of Gov Scott we are going to have to work at it.

  16. rickg says:

    Again I will say those of you in the private sector that scream “if we have to do it then why not the state employees as well” need to be screaming at your state and federal representatives to stop violating your 4th Amendment rights.. If the Gov decided it was proper to find out how many guns each employee had there would be a riot on the Capitol. Why is one amendment more delicate and important than the others?

  17. JG says:

    Good Lord! This from a man whose company stole millions, if not billions, of taxpayer dollars via Medicaid fraud and he now wants some drug tester cronies along with private prison health care cronies to get on another government teat?

  18. Sherry Epley says:

    Right on Barbie! Drug testing is a massive invasion of privacy, pure and simple!

    The supreme court has found that random drug testing violates the 4th amendment and allows it only for those government employees whose jobs “discharge duties fraught with such risks of injury to others that even a momentary lapse of attention can have disastrous consequences based on the interest of the general public: ”

    Private employers should not be violating our rights to privacy to begin with. . . and we certainly shouldn’t just go along with this violation for government employees or anyone else for that matter.

    Why is it that the protection of the 2nd amendment raises so much passion, but many have no problem throwing our rights to privacy out the window, with no thought at all????

  19. A.S.F. says:

    @Sherry Epley says–Sadly, it really comes down to a sense of entitlement that allows some people to think that one set of rules and expectations should apply to them but not to others, by virtue of their skin color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, ethnicity, address, occupation or any of the hundreds of other things that too many of us harbor prejudices about, either openly or secretly.

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