Requiring an Employee to Undergo a Psychological Test as a Condition of Employment Does Not Violate the Fourth Amendment Because Such Tests Do Not Constitute a "Search"

Developments in Mental Health Law, July 2005 | Go to article overview

Requiring an Employee to Undergo a Psychological Test as a Condition of Employment Does Not Violate the Fourth Amendment Because Such Tests Do Not Constitute a "Search"


Psychological examinations are required as a condition of employment in a number of fields. Because the exams may explore relatively private and sensitive matters, various employees have filed lawsuits to exempt them from such requirements. In Indiana, a research analyst objected when officials with the Indiana Department of Corrections told her that to keep her job she would have to submit to a psychological exam. The test lasted two hours and was acknowledged to inquire into details of her personal life. The research analyst filed a federal claim that the test by state officers violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

The Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the employee's claim. The court acknowledged that the employee had no contact with prisoners, was not armed, was not privy to state secrets, and had no other powers or opportunities that have been established as warranting in general a psychological test as a condition of employment. The court also granted that what constitutes a "search" encompasses a broad range of tests, including breathalyzer and urine tests and that the physical contact associated with these other tests may be minimal or nonexistent, while the invasion of privacy associated with a psychological test may be more profound.

Nevertheless, the court concluded that a psychological test is not a "search" that is subject to Fourth Amendment protections. …

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