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Supreme Court Smacks Down Rick Scott On Drug Testing

The high court denied Florida's petition to hear new arguments in the case, so naturally Scott remained defiant in his increasingly quixotic pursuit of mandatory drug testing.

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By Dana Byerly

04/22/14

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The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a big blow to Florida Gov. Rick Scott and his pursuit of a “drug-free workplace” on Monday by denying a petition to hear new arguments in an ongoing case regarding the legality of mandatory drug testing for all state employees.

By denying the petition, the Supreme Court agreed to let Florida’s 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stand in the case, Scott v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council (AFSCME) 79. The lower court’s ruling determined that the state could not legally require all government employees to submit to drug tests, which set up Scott’s petition to the Supreme Court late last week and its eventual rejection Monday.

The case has been in and out of Florida courts since 2011, when approximately 40,000 state employees filed a complaint claiming the state violated their fourth amendment right of protection against unreasonable searches. Lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Shalini Goal Agarwal of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said she was pleased with Monday’s ruling.

“The Supreme Court has agreed with what we have known all along: the question of whether the state has the power to compel all employees to submit to suspicionless searches without a good reason is settled. And the answer is ‘no,’” Agarwal said.

But the circuit court’s decision did grant Scott some leeway in drug testing without suspicion in "certain safety-sensitive categories of employees – for instance, employees who operate or pilot large vehicles, or law enforcement officers who carry firearms in the course of duty."

Though he lost the battle, Scott intends to keep fighting the war in the lower courts and defended his policy. "State employees should have the right to work in a safe and drug free environment, just like in any other business," he said.

Scott’s stubborn refusal to back down naturally drew fire from Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, who criticized the embattled governor for continuing to waste taxpayer money.

"What part of 'no' does he not understand?" Simon said.

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