Governor Scott suspends drug testing for most state workers

Jun 16, 2011

The following article was published in the Florida Current on June 16, 2011:

Scott suspends drug testing for most state workers

By Gary Fineout

Governor Rick Scott has suspended drug testing for state workers at all the agencies under his control except the Department of Corrections.

In late March, Scott signed an executive order that required current state employees to be subject to random drug tests, while all new hires will also have to pass a drug test. Scott’s executive order gave agencies 60 days to come up with plans that would allow state workers to be tested quarterly.

But on June 10 Scott sent out a memo that said he was suspending plans due to a recent legal challenge against the program by the ACLU.

In the memo, Scott said he is confident that the state will win the legal battle, but he added that “while the case is pending, it does not make sense for all agencies to move forward with the logistical issues involved in instituting the new policy.” The memo states that once the lawsuit is resolved the state will move ahead in a “coordinated procurement” of drug-testing services.

ACLU officials — who released the memo publicly — took glee in the decision, although they said they did not plan to drop their lawsuit.

“This is nothing less than a massive and embarrassing retreat on the part of Gov. Scott,” said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida executive director. “Despite his continuing rhetoric, he must now realize that Floridians won’t simply roll over but will stand up and defend our constitutional rights.”

When asked about it on Thursday, Scott brushed aside any talk that he was retreating. He said the state was merely changing the process in how it carries out the program. Scott continued to defend the idea of forcing state workers to submit to random drug tests.

“Our taxpayers expect our state employees to be productive and this is exactly what the private sector does,” Scott said. “This is the right thing and we’re going forward.”

The ACLU filed its lawsuit in U.S. federal court in Miami in late May. Attorneys working with the ACLU maintained Scott’s drug-testing policy was unconstitutional because of a federal judge’s ruling in 2004 that determined the Department of Juvenile Justice’s program of random drug testing of employees was unconstitutional.

The Department of Corrections before Scott’s executive order was already performing drug tests on about 21,000 employees, said a spokeswoman. Under Scott’s directive, the department will soon begin testing an additional 6,000 employees, including administrative staff.

“Correctional and probation officeers are already being drug tested so we aren’t asking our administrative staff to do anything differently than we’ve alerady asked our field staff to do for years,” said Gretl Plessinger.