At Long Last, Florida Gov. Rick Scott Drops Lawsuit Over State Worker Drug Tests

By McCarton Ackerman 04/21/15

Rick Scott has given up his quixotic quest to drug test state employees.

Rick Scott
No longer tilting at windmills. Photo via

After years of grandstanding and huge amounts of taxpayer money spent on attorney fees, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is finally ending his battle to drug test state workers.

A formal settlement has been reached between Scott and the union that represents state workers. Although some state workers will still be subject to drug testing, Scott will drop his request to drug test all state employees under his control.

More than 1,000 job categories would be exempt from random testing, but certain jobs in 10 agencies that report to him, ranging from electricians to state park rangers, would still require testing. An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida estimated that 7,000 employees could be subjected to random tests.

If a judge approves the settlement, the state will also be required to spend $375,000 to reimburse attorney fees and costs for the Florida branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

"We are glad to have reached a settlement that would bring to an end the overly broad and unconstitutional crusade against so many of our members," said union president Jeanette D. Wynn. "The settlement we've reached would significantly scale back that campaign, allowing a more limited testing program to go forward, while protecting the rights and dignity of many of our members who were unlawfully subject to suspicionless searches under the original executive order."

Shortly after Scott entered office in 2011, he demanded both pre-employment drug testing and random testing for 85,000 state workers upon employment. A Miami federal judge quickly struck down the request, but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled that certain categories of workers could be subjected to testing.

Although the scope of his drug testing program has been scaled back significantly, Scott appears pleased with the settlement. His spokesman, John Tupps, said the governor was happy to ensure “state employees working in the most critical areas of safety and security remain drug-free.”

Scott had also previously called for welfare recipients to submit to mandatory drug testing, but the law was ruled unconstitutional by two federal courts at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. Scott spent $400,000 in taxpayer money appealing the rulings, but declined last month to have the U.S. Supreme Court seek further review of the law.

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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.