Key West revokes job offer after woman refused to submit to suspicionless urinalysis

CONTACT:           ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363-2737

 Key West - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida today filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of a Key West woman after the City of Key West revoked her job offer because she refused to submit to a suspicionless search of her bodily fluids under the City’s drug test policy. In the lawsuit challenging the City’s policy as a violation of the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable suspicionless government searches, the ACLU of Florida represents Karen Cabanas Voss, whose offer to become the City’s Recycling Coordinator was revoked by Key West.

In January, Key West offered a job to Voss as its Recycling Coordinator. When she reported to human resources to fill out employee paperwork, the City demanded she provide a urine sample.  Voss objected to this across-the-board suspicionless drug testing and complained to the City Attorney’s office that testing of government job applicants can be required only for a specific group of “safety-sensitive” positions. Instead of respecting the privacy of Voss and other applicants for employment, Key West revoked the job offer and hired someone else.

“I thought I had found the perfect opportunity to help this city which I love, but in order to do so, they were asking me to submit to something that I knew was illegal and wrong,” stated Voss. “Key West’s motto, ‘One Human Family,’ means we should treat each other with dignity and respect and not guilty until proven innocent. I hope that the policy gets eliminated so that serving the City of Key West doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your rights or your dignity.”

The testing scheme, put in place in 1999, requires all applicants for City employment to submit to urinalysis, without suspicion of drug use and without consideration of whether the position for which they are applying is safety-sensitive. Refusal to submit to the urinalysis results in the applicant being denied the job.

“Unfortunately, too many Florida government officials believe it is acceptable and proper to require public employees to submit to invasive and humiliating searches,” stated ACLU of Florida Staff Attorney Shalini Goel Agarwal. Agarwal was also the lead attorney in a lawsuit in which the ACLU of Florida and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) successfully challenged and received a federal court order blocking a 2011 Executive Order by Governor Rick Scott requiring random, suspicionless drug testing of state employees.

“People don’t sacrifice their constitutional rights simply because they choose to serve in government,” continued Agarwal. “And governments can’t treat people like suspected criminals just because they want to serve the people of the community.”

In addition to the AFSCME v. Scott case challenging Gov. Scott’s executive order, the ACLU of Florida has successfully challenged the constitutionality of random and suspicionless drug testing of government employees numerous times. In 2000, a federal court struck down a policy in the City of Hollywood requiring drug testing of all applicants for City employment following an ACLU lawsuit.  Most recently, in January 2013, the City of DeFuniak Springs, Florida repealed a policy requiring all employees to submit to suspicionless drug tests following a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Florida on behalf of that city’s planning director.

“No one should be forced to surrender their constitutional rights simply because they work for their local government,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida.   “It shouldn’t have required a lawsuit by the ACLU to get Key West officials to recognize that the constitutional prohibition against humiliating and privacy-invading searches by government officials protects Floridians from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys.”

A copy of the lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida is available here:


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