Drug/Alcohol Testing Requirement Unconstitutional

Drug/Alcohol Testing Requirement Unconstitutional

Posted: December, 2002

State, ex rel. Ohio AFL-CIO v. Ohio Bur. of Workers’ Comp. (12/18/02), 97 Ohio St.3d 504, 2002-Ohio-6717.

In a 4-3 decision issued December 18, 2002, the Ohio Supreme Court found the drug/alcohol testing requirements added to R.C. 4123.54 by Am. Sub. H.B. 122 unconstitutional. The new requirements went into effect in April, 2001.

Am. Sub. H.B. 122 added a variety of drug/alcohol testing provisions to R.C. 4123.54. The law required injured workers to submit to drug/alcohol testing or face potential loss of workers’ compensation benefits.

The drug/alcohol testing was “suspicionless”, because it could be required even if no reason for believing that the injured worker had been under the influence of a controlled substance existed.

Before the law went into effect, the Ohio AFL-CIO, William Burga and the United Auto Workers filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the testing requirements. The suit asked the Supreme Court to strike the amendments to the law (returning the law to its previous version).

The Court found the amendments unconstitutional, ruling in the syllabus of its opinion that:

2000 Am.Sub.H.B. No. 122, which permits the warrantless drug and alcohol testing of injured workers without any individualized suspicion of drug or alcohol use, violates the protections against unreasonable searches contained in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 14, Article I of the Ohio Constitution.

The Court indicated that suspicionless testing is permitted only for “unique and discreet” groups. The Court found the R.C. 4123.54 testing requirements unconstitutional because they involve all Ohioans. The Court indicates that this violates the constitution because “[s]uspicionless testing can be applicable to certain carved out categories of workers, but not to all workers.”

The Court also recognized that the testing violates the constitutional right to privacy:

Ordinary people working ordinary jobs do not have the expectation that they are subject to searches without reason.

The Court also indicated that the law is unconstitutional because:

a worker would not expect to face the indignity of drug and alcohol testing without any suspicion of wrongdoing. Workers would not anticipate that their sobriety would be called into question merely for suffering an industrial accident. They would expect that since Ohio’s workers’ compensation system is a creature of the Ohio Constitution, they would not have to jump through an embarrassing hoop to gain the protection of the system.

Additional Information:

  • Read a summary of the complaint and arguments made by the parties;
  • Read a copy of the complaint;
  • Read the brief filed by the parties challenging the law.
Information courtesy of the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin. Subscribe to the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin to keep informed about the Ohio workers’ compensation system.