“Drugs have taught an entire generation of American kids the metric system” – P. J. O’Rourke
NBC is reporting that a federal judge declared an order by Florida governor Rick Scott requiring drug testing for all state employees to be unconstitutional. I have to say I’m just dumbfounded – but not quite to the point of being speechless, as you will soon see.
I started my current job almost 12 years ago – and had to take a drug test as a condition of employment. True, I haven’t had to take one since (I haven’t used drugs since either … or before for that matter). Still, I’d like to think that my private employer has some right to ask for a drug test if they want to as a condition of employment. They’d soon find that it was a waste of money and quit – but they’d have the right to do whatever they see fit in the private and free management of their private and free enterprise.
Somehow my private employer has more rights than citizens of the state of Florida. After all, they are the employers of the 85,000 or so state workers, and they have been told they have no right to administer a random drug test to their employees.
The judge’s rationale? Somehow random drug tests without probable cause don’t pass muster under the 4th amendment. You can’t make this stuff up. An employer now has to have probable cause before testing for drugs in the system of an employee as a condition of new or continued employment. For reference, here is the text of the fourth amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I think any rational person reads this as a limitation on federal power over the private and free citizens of the country – not a limitation on free market interactions of employer and employee.
The arguments against the suit, aside from the confusing notion that the Bill of Rights limitations on federal power apply to employment conditions in the states, seem to come down to the fact that the State’s lawyers really didn’t make a good argument. Honestly?
There is a hint in all of this of the “big boss employer versus oppressed worker” narrative that liberals love so much. That is, the big boss is just like the federal government and needs to have its power limited from oppressing the people, who have a right to life, liberty, and a job. But sometimes the big boss is honestly just an agent in the free market and people are choosing whether or not to interact in that market.
The article notes that this is a second setback for Scott, who had also supported a law (which passed, by the way) which required drug testing for welfare recipients. Let me translate that – the people of Florida are allowed to provide welfare for the poorest citizens, but they are not allowed to make the assistance conditional on the non-usage of drugs. That’s right good citizens of Florida – you have a responsibility to support people, but no authority to attach stipulations to your support. This violates the simplest of principles.
Now the welfare thing is easier to solve, or at least easier to “smoke out” into a big kerfuffle that will gain massive national attention. Given that the federal court has told the state of Florida how to apply their laws, the state could simply outlaw welfare. You’d soon see a federal judge outlawing that move and mandating the state provide welfare – which would be a humorous debate to watch.
As for the state worker issue, Scott should go for an actual law instead of an executive order. Let’s see if the federal judge will overturn a state law allowing random drug testing of state employees at the governor’s discretion.
In all of this, I feel compelled to make sure my position on drug use and drug laws is clear. I hold that drug use is both dangerous and immoral. I do NOT hold that it should be illegal. People can do things that are dangerous and immoral without violating the human rights of their neighbors – and the government should not get involved. But drug testing as a condition of employment is a different issue still. Employers make decisions on employment that are above and beyond defense of individual liberties – they have to decide if the employment agreement is economically viable and whether the employee will be able to provide the agreed-upon services. They ought to have a right to do so. Incidentally, I do not actually think a drug test order for all state employees is a good thing (85,000 tests costs some serious cabbage) – but the state of Florida ought to be able to make that decision for themselves.