Florida judge blocks drug tests for state workers

MIAMI Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:19pm EDT

Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks during an interview in New York, March 26, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks during an interview in New York, March 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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MIAMI (Reuters) - A federal judge in Miami has tossed out an executive order from Florida Governor Rick Scott requiring drug testing of state employees, saying it violated the constitutional prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Republican governor last year ordered random drug tests for all state employees and new hires, regardless of whether they were suspected of drug use, arguing it was similar to the financial disclosures required for some workers.

In a ruling on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro described Scott's reasoning as "hardly transparent and frankly obscure" and said it violated the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment's search and seizure protections.

"He offers no plausible rationale explaining why the fact that a state employee's work product and financial status are publicly accessible leads to the conclusions that the employee's expectation of privacy in his or her bodily functions and fluids are then diminished," Ungaro wrote.

Scott, a former healthcare executive, said he would challenge Ungaro's ruling.

"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," he said in a statement on Thursday.

"That is why so many private employers drug-test, and why the public and Florida's taxpayers overwhelmingly support this policy. I respectfully disagree with the court's ruling and will pursue the case on appeal."

Scott's March 2011 order had been challenged in court by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Scott had suspended the order in June, days after the lawsuit was filed on behalf of some 85,000 public sector workers.

Scott has also suspended a state law he supported requiring drug tests for welfare recipients, after the ACLU filed a separate lawsuit. A federal judge has temporarily blocked that law.

(Reporting By Tom Brown; Editing by Paul Simao)

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