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Key West Drug Test Case Must Go Before a Jury

(CN) - A Florida woman who sued Key West, Fla. for rescinding a job offer after she balked at taking drug test, will have to make her claim for damages to a jury, a federal judge ruled.

In her federal lawsuit, Karen Voss says she applied for and was offered the position of solid waste coordinator before she was told she needed to pass a mandatory, pre-employment drug test to seal the deal.

She says when she refused to submit to the test, the city rescinded its offer and gave the job to someone else.

Voss then sued the city, arguing that all suspicionless, pre-employment drug testing is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King granted Voss summary judgment in regard to the city's liability, and the woman filed a second motion, seeking the relief she believes should flow from that liability.

In her motion, Voss sought to have the city enjoined from requiring job applicants to submit to drug tests in the future, and also asked that she be awarded the $111,219.03 she would have been paid in the time the case has been litigated.

The city responded by arguing that because she was an applicant and not an employee, she can't recover damages, and that even if the court rule that she could, the amount should be determined by a jury.

Judge King took a different view based on the precedent set by Harkless v. Sweeny Indep. Sch. Dist., holding that prayer for back pay is not a claim for damages, but an integral part of the equitable remedy of injunctive reinstatement.

However, he agreed with the city that the degree to which Voss should be compensated, if at all, is a matter that should be left to a jury.

Judge King also agreed with the city that a question exists as to what extent Voss tried to mitigate the loss of the offered job.

"The city points out, for an example, that Plaintiff's efforts to find work did not include any attempt to practice law, even though she previously worked in private practice and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1998," the Judge wrote.

King declined to address the constitutionality of mandatory, pre-employment drug testing.


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