ACLU of Florida Defends Man Who "Just Said No" to Workplace Urine Test

January 21, 1999 12:00 am

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Thursday, January 21, 1999

FT. LAUDERDALE–At a news conference this morning, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida announced the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of an accountant who lost his job with the City of Hollywood after refusing to take a urine test.

Under the city’s employment policy, new employees are subject to mandatory drug testing even in the absence of reasonable suspicion that the employee is using or has used drugs.

Thomas Baron, the plaintiff named in the lawsuit, was hired by the city of Hollywood after working as a temporary accountant through an agency for three months. Baron received praise for the quality of his work performance from Treasury Manager Doreen Lam, who called him “Magic Man.” But when he refused to submit to the drug test, the city revoked its decision to hire him as an accountant.

“Employers have the right to expect workers not to be high or drunk on the job,” said Ephraim Hess, ACLU Cooperating Attorney. “But employers who conduct drug tests on workers who are not suspected of any use of drugs are policing private behavior that has no impact on job performance. That is an unjustifiable intrusion on a person’s bodily integrity, a freedom guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

The ACLU lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction enjoining the City of Hollywood from requiring suspicionless urinalysis drug testing as a condition of public employment, as well as compensatory damages for Baron. The case was filed by the ACLU’s Broward County Chapter in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

“The City of Hollywood incorrectly believes that it has the right to require searches of bodily fluids in order to judge whether someone can perform the job of an accountant,” said ACLU Cooperating Attorney Colleen O’Loughlin. “Requiring urine tests for public employees like Baron is both unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

Baron worked for Interim Accounting Professionals, an accounting temporary employment agency hired by the City of Hollywood. After a three-month period, the City of Hollywood hired Baron as part of the city’s own accounting pool. His duties included preparing bank reconciliations of all accounts and preparing a database of all lease agreements with the city, as well as other sources of city revenue.

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