Appeals court puts end to Forest Service’s random drug testing

Charles Cloutier/Shutterstock.com

A federal appeals court has struck down the Forest Service’s random drug testing policy, reversing a previous decision at the district court level, according to FedSmith.

The ruling specifically applied to employees at the Job Corps Conservation Centers that the Forest Service runs. The centers offer vocational training related to conservation and management of public natural resources. The Agriculture Department -- the Forest Service’s parent agency -- designated all Job Corps positions as subject to random drug testing. After initially backing off the decision due to union dissent, the Forest Service reinstated the policy in 2010.

The National Federation of Federal Employees filed a lawsuit against the Agriculture Department and Forest Service shortly thereafter.

“We conclude that [Agriculture] Secretary [Tom Vilsack] has failed to demonstrate ‘special needs’ justifying random drug testing of all Forest Service Job Corps Center employees,” the District of Columbia Circuit Appeals Court wrote in its decision. “Even assuming that subjecting all Job Corps employees is premised on important government interests, the lack of a foundation for ‘special needs’ to intrude on their Fourth Amendment rights significantly undermines these interests.”

The court sent the issue back to the district level and issued a preliminary injunction to suspend the drug testing program until the district court comes up with a solution.

“The issue here was not the drug testing itself, but rather an overly broad policy requiring suspicionless testing of all Job Corps employees, many of whom have worked for the government for 20 years or more with no incident,” Stefan P. Sutich, general counsel for NFFE, told Government Executive. “This decision reaffirms the fundamental principle that federal employees do not check their constitutional rights at the workplace door.”

(Image via Charles Cloutier/Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.