Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Supreme Court Drug Test Rulings

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Supreme Court Drug Test Rulings

Article excerpt

Supreme Court drug test rulings

Drug testing, which is becoming an increasingly divisive issue in collective bargaining and legislative halls, drew two opinions from the Supreme Court that validated such efforts, in limited circumstances.

In Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives Association, the Court held that railroad operating crews can be tested for drug use after being involved in accidents. Writing for the seven-member majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the provisions of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting searches without probable cause did not apply in this case because of "special needs" in the safe transport of the public resulting from the fact that railroad employees "can cause great human loss before any sign of impairment becomes noticeable to supervisors or others."

In dissent, Justice Thurgood Marshall, joined by Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., conceded that eradication of illegal drug use was a proper national objective, but concluded that testing of railroad workers without any evidence of wrong-doing allows "basic constitutional rights to fall prey to momentary emergencies."

In the other case, National Treasury Employees Union v. Van Raab, Justice Kennedy, writing for the five-member majority, held that the U.S. Customs Service's Drug Enforcement Administration had the right to routinely test employees involved in interdicting illegal drugs and employees who carry firearms. …

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