Florida state workers face random drug tests under new law

Employees could be fired, disciplined for testing positive
By Colleen Jenkins
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 03/21/2012

(Reuters) — Florida Governor Rick Scott has signed a law allowing state employees to be randomly tested for drugs, a measure likely to draw a legal challenge over its constitutionality.

The Republican governor signed the Drug-free Workplace Act, which will permit state agencies to randomly test up to 10 per cent of their employees, his office said on Monday.

Tests could be conducted once every 90 days under the measure, which takes effect July 1. It would allow agencies to fire or discipline employees the first time they test positive for drugs.

Employers could choose to refer such employees to an alcohol and drug rehabilitation program.

Supporters of the law said it mirrors long-standing practices in private industry, but critics called the measure intrusive and unnecessary.

"Just like businesses do every day in the private sector, we, as a state, want to ensure a healthy and productive workforce," spokesman Lane Wright said in an email.

Lawmakers in several states have passed similar measures in recent years. The courts have generally upheld random drug testing for workers in jobs that involve public safety.

"Governor Scott signed this law in clear defiance of constitutional principles," said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida.

An ACLU spokesman would not confirm whether the organization intended to file a constitutional challenge, but Simon indicated in his statement legal action was likely.

Florida legislators last year voted to require applicants for federal public assistance to pass a drug test, but a federal judge barred enforcement of the law pending resolution of a challenge to its constitutionality.

"When this matter lands in the courts, we expect they will make it clear once again that government cannot subject people to suspicionless searches just because it wants to," Simon said. "People do not lose their constitutional rights just because they work for the state of Florida."

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