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Employee Drug Testing

Some tests that are authorized by regulations issued by federal agencies will be presumed to be a  search within the meaning of fourth amendment.  For example, urine and blood tests carried by federal agencies authorized by the regulations is a search which comes under the purview of fourth amendment.  Such tests are deemed as “search” even if it is carried out by private parties, as far as they act as an instrument or agent of the government[i].

However, it is necessary to balance the expectations of the privacy of an individual against the interests of the government to determine whether it is impractical to require a warrant or some sort of individualized suspicion in a particular context[ii].

It was observed in Skinner v. Ry. Labor Executives’ Ass’n, 489 U.S. 602 (U.S. 1989), that a compelled intrusion into the body for blood to be analyzed for alcohol content will be deemed as a fourth amendment search.  It was also added that subjecting a person to a breathalyzer test which requires “deep lung” breath for chemical analysis is also be deemed as search.

In Knox County Educ. Ass’n v. Knox County Bd. of Educ., 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21307 (E.D. Tenn. Apr. 13, 1994), plaintiff, an education association claimed that there were federal and state constitutional deficiencies in both the drug free workplace policy and the pre employment drug screening policy and therefore, it is a reasonable suspicion policy.  The court declared both policies as unconstitutional observing that the pre employment drug screening policy did not protected privacy interests.  The court also ruled that the reasonable suspicion policy did not provide necessary safeguards.

[i] Skinner v. Ry. Labor Executives’ Ass’n, 489 U.S. 602 (U.S. 1989)

[ii] Nat’l Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab, 489 U.S. 656 (U.S. 1989)

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