Scott Orders Drug Testing for State Workers

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida

Tallahassee, FL - Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order on Tuesday that will require random drug testing of many current state employees as well as pre-hire testing for applicants.

“Floridians deserve to know that those in public service, whose salaries are paid with taxpayer dollars, are part of a drug-free workplace,” Scott said. “Just as it is appropriate to screen those seeking taxpayer assistance, it is also appropriate to screen government employees.”

The reference to taxpayer assistance referred to a push by Scott and legislative Republicans to require those who apply for state benefits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program to submit to a drug test before getting benefits. That proposal (SB 556) was approved unanimously on Tuesday by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. It has another stop before the Senate floor.

Under Scott’s proposed order, current employees in agencies that answer to the governor, would be subject to periodic random screening. The executive order signed by Scott says the tests would require testing of each employee “at least quarterly.” The random testing of current employees will begin in 60 days under the order.

“A better, healthier, more productive workforce is something taxpayers deserve,” said Scott spokesman Brian Hughes.

Effective immediately, any new hires in governor’s agencies would also be subject to pre-hire drug testing under the order.

State agencies are already allowed – though not required – to do pre-hiring drug screening under the Florida Drug-Free Workplaces Act. State officials couldn’t say Tuesday which, if any, agencies already do that.

State agencies, under that law, also can already require drug testing when there’s suspicion that a current employee is using illegal drugs, but courts have generally found that random testing of government workers who aren’t in jobs that affect public safety, such as bus drivers, or in security positions, amounts to a “search” by the government. Such searches must be “reasonable,” generally, and some courts have interpreted such requirements of ordinary government workers as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches.

In fact, almost immediately Scott’s order came under fire from the ACLU, which said that a 2004 federal court ruling in Florida on exactly this issue made at least part of Scott’s order unconstitutional.

In that case, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that the Department of Juvenile Justice was violating the Fourth Amendment in ordering random drug testing. Hinkle ordered DJJ to halt the random drug testing and pay the employee who sued, Roderick Wenzel, $150,000.

It’s not clear whether the DJJ ever did stop its random drug testing. A spokeswoman for the agency referred that question to the governor’s office.

Hughes, the Scott spokesman, said he didn’t know enough about the case to comment on what ever happened to the Wenzel case, or why it didn’t have a bearing on Tuesday’s order.

But the ACLU contends that random searches of all employees aren’t allowed.

“I’m not sure why Gov. Scott does not know that the policy he recreated by executive order today has already been declared unconstitutional,” ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said in a statement. “The state of Florida cannot force people to surrender their constitutional rights in order to work for the state. Absent any evidence of illegal drug use, or assigned a safety-sensitive job, people have a right to be left alone.”

Hughes said Scott, obviously, believes otherwise.

“The governor has some of the best legal advisors available,” Hughes said. “This executive order is within his legal authority.”

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  • by Anonymous on Apr 16, 2011 at 07:41 AM
    Rod Wenzel was fired for refusing to take a random drug test. Only a drug user would refuse to take a drug test
  • by lcu1498 Location: Tallahassee on Mar 31, 2011 at 06:10 PM
    Oh stop! My workplace began testing us in the early 90's and you know what? I'd much rather know that my co-workers aren't impared by any substance at all then merely hope they're not. And while you're at it Govenor test everyong on any form of state aid before they get those checks too!
  • by RetiredMarine Location: Tallassee on Mar 29, 2011 at 09:49 AM
    The costs of the screenings will be more than worth it. Reduced liability, increased efficiency and workplace safety. The only ones complaining are those with something to hide.
  • by anonymous Location: crawfordville on Mar 28, 2011 at 12:51 PM
    I just think it is an invasion of privacy to have to give your employer your pee in order to work. Maybe the workers in dangerous jobs should be tested for thier own protection and those with whom they work, but everyone else - why?
  • by steve Location: tall on Mar 27, 2011 at 10:43 AM
    and add to my last comment- is he worried if medicinal marijuana is legalized, will it cut down on sale of pills? He doesn't want the pills tracked, doesn't want medicinal marijuana, and is drug testing. soooo...... this pot of stew is getting crowded. ((Columbia/HCA board of directors forced Scott to resign as Chairman and CEO. He was paid $9.88 million in a settlement. He also left owning 10 million shares of stock worth over $350 million. They filed false cost reports, fraudulently billing Medicare for home health care workers, and paid kickbacks in the sale of home health agencies and to doctors to refer patients. In addition, they gave doctors "loans" never intending to be repaid, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.)) from wikipedia
  • by steve Location: tall on Mar 27, 2011 at 12:02 AM
    Is Scott's Executive Order a tool to attack or intimidate the Legislature from voting on or sponsoring Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) HJR 1407 "Let Floridians Decide on Legalization of Cannabis"? Clemens filed this bill on March 8th, and Scott's Executive order was 14 days later. Coincidence?
  • by Disappointed on Mar 25, 2011 at 06:35 AM
    "SHAME" I USE TO BE PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN. What has government turn into the peoples worst nightmare! Whats the cost on drug testing? Trying to save money one way but spending it another don't get!!
  • by WhyNot Location: Tallahassee on Mar 24, 2011 at 10:10 PM
    It should be required. Drug use cuts productivity and efficiency in any work environment and creates a hazardous environment in many of them. Whatever expenditure will be recouped by insuring a safe competent and streamlined workforce. If it's good enough for our servicemen and women, it's good enough for all of us. Those that seem upset by the proposition will probably be looking for employment in the near future...
  • by Lip Cheese on Mar 24, 2011 at 07:36 PM
    Soak your fingernails in DDT and then drip across the nail. I bet that will set off some bells at the lab!!!
  • by Jamar Location: Florida on Mar 24, 2011 at 01:31 PM
    Let's legalize pot,tax it like we do cigarettes and booze.
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