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

Charles Cloutier/

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/

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

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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