Key West's Mandatory Employment Drug Testing Ruled Unconstitutional

By McCarton Ackerman 05/16/14

In another blow to Florida's zeal for drug testing employees, a federal judge struck down the city's testing policies as a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

urine sample.jpg

Despite Florida’s best efforts to require mandatory drug testing in various capacities, federal judges continue to strike this down as unconstitutional.

The city of Key West has now been barred from requiring drug testing from all employment applicants. The issue came up when Karen Cabanas Voss was removed from consideration for a Solid Waste Coordinator position because she refused to take a drug test. U.S District Court Judge James Lawrence King ruled that the policy was a violation of the Fourth Amendment because drug testing is considered a “search” and requires reasonable suspicion that an individual is guilty of a crime.

“[T]here is no evidence in the record showing a serious problem of drug abuse amongst applicants for employment with the City, or even amongst City employees generally, which might serve to confirm the City’s assertion of a special need for a suspicion-less drug testing regime and justify a departure from the Fourth Amendment’s usual requirement of individualized suspicion,” wrote King. Last May, a federal appeals court removed a state-wide requirement that Florida employees be required to undergo drug testing.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has also continued to fight for welfare drug testing to be reinstated after a federal judge deemed it unconstitutional last December. Statistics from April 2012 showed that only 2.6 percent of the 4,086 applicants who were tested in Florida in the previous 12 months received a positive result. And rather than saving money by removing addicted workers, it actually ended up costing the state $45,780 from reimbursing the cost of the test to applicants who tested negative.

Despite this, he said in a statement last January that “we should have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families – especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.