Missouri: Federal Judge Limits Random Drug Testing Of Public Employees

Jefferson City, MO: A US federal court judge this week struck down the practice of random drug testing for the majority of Missouri’s Department of Mental Health (DMH) employees, finding that the blanket policy violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches by the state.

US District Judge Nanette Laughrey ruled Tuesday that the Department failed to demonstrate a “special need” to justify drug testing all of its employees without probable cause.

“In the end, DMH’s decision to subject the Plaintiffs to random drug tests is nothing more than a ‘gesture or symbol’ that DMH does not approve of illegal drug use,” she opined. “Every public employer has an interest in ensuring that its employees are not under the influence of illicit drugs. … Because this interest is so pervasive, if it alone were enough to justify warrantless drug testing, the Fourth Amendment’s protection for public employees would be meaningless.”

The judge did uphold random drug testing as it applies to employees in state habilitation centers, determining that employees who work with this “particularly vulnerable” population may be subjected to stricter state scrutiny.

Approximately one-third of the state’s 10,000 DMH employees would continue to be randomly drug tested under the ruling, said attorney Dan Viets, who brought the suit on behalf of Missouri NORML. “While the Court’s order allows such testing under circumstances where there is a reason to suspect drug use, and of some employees of state habilitation centers, the most offensive and pervasive for of testing – random drug testing – has been permanently stopped by this order,” he said.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500 or Dan Viets, at (573) 819-2669. The case is Jakubowicz et al v. Dittemore.