Appeals Court Rules on Drug Testing; Both Sides Claim Victory

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered a lower-court judge to reconsider her order blocking a program that would subject all state employees to random drug testing, but left little doubt that the plan would be found unconstitutional with regards to many state workers.

The 61-page ruling, which left both sides declaring victory, essentially overturned the decision by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro but also seemed to endorse the views of the union that sued to block Gov. Rick Scott’s drug-testing executive order.

Writing for a three-judge panel at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Stanley Marcus wrote that Ungaro was right to find the law troublesome, but said she went too far in barring the state from testing all 85,000 employees affected by the executive order.

“The district court, confronted with a suspicionless drug testing policy that almost certainly sweeps far too broadly and hence runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment in many of its applications, granted relief that also swept too broadly and captured both the policy’s constitutional applications and its unconstitutional ones,” he wrote.

Marcus said some employees, such as those who carry weapons or operate heavy machinery, could likely be tested because of safety concerns — if the state can justify those tests. But the ruling also made clear that some workers would likely be shielded from the tests.