A federal judge has ruled that Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) violated the Constitution last year when he ordered drug testing for state government workers.
U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ruled on Wednesday that suspicionless drug testing testing for state workers violated the Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable search and seizure. Scott had suspended his order after it had been challenged by the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 40,000 of the 85,000 state workers who would have been affected by the order.
"The Governor can't order the state to search people's bodily fluids for no reason -- the Constitution prohibits that sort of government intrusion," Howard Simon, director of the Florida ACLU, said in a statement. "And the Governor can’t demand that people surrender their constitutional rights for the privilege of working for the state or receiving some other government benefit."
Scott said Thursday he would appeal the ruling, according to the Florida Times-Union. "As I have repeatedly explained, I believe that drug testing state employees is a common sense means of ensuring a safe, efficient and productive workforce ... That is why so many private employers drug test, and why the public and Florida's taxpayers overwhelmingly support this policy."
While there is a public interest in a drug-free workplace, Ungaro wrote, Scott's order was too broad, given the narrower interests the Supreme Court has said justify suspicionless drug testing.
"The [executive order] does not identify a concrete danger that must be addressed by suspicionless drug-testing of state employees, and the Governor shows no evidence of a drug use problem at the covered agencies," Ungaro wrote.
The ruling represents the second constitutional rebuke to Scott over drug testing, who last year signed a law to test welfare recipients. U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven halted the drug testing with an October injunction, finding that a welfare applicant represented by the ACLU who challenged the law would likely win his case on constitutional grounds.
Ungaro's order bodes poorly for a Republican-sponsored bill to drug test state workers that recently passed the Florida state legislature. Derek Newton, a spokesman for the Florida chapter of the ACLU, suggested in February that his group would be happy to sue again.
"We have gone to court twice in the last year to challenge suspicionless drug testing," Newton said, "and if the state continues to enact policies to require people to be subject to government search and seizure without suspicion, I would not be surprised at all if that's something we continue to oppose."
This story has been updated to include comment from the Florida ACLU's Howard Simon.
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