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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

No Urine Test for Court Clerk – Yet

HONOLULU (CN) - A newly hired legal clerk at the Hawaii County Prosecutor's Office in Hilo can start working without the mandatory urine test, a federal judge ruled Friday.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson ruled that Hawaii County failed to show a special need for the urinalysis, which would violate Rebekah Taylor-Failor's Fourth Amendment rights.

The urinalysis mandate is valid only if it advances a legitimate government interest. "Employment requirements cannot stand where they violate rights of a constitutional dimension," Watson wrote.

For the urine test mandate to be legal, the county must show Legal Clerk II is a safety-sensitive job, requiring a particular level of fitness.

Safety-sensitive jobs involve work that may pose dangers to the public, such as operating railroad cars or enforcing laws against illegal drugs, among others.

Legal Clerk II is a light duty, clerical, nonsafety-sensitive position, which does not require a particular level of physical fitness to perform essential job functions.

"The county's desire to measure a prospective employee's general health is certainly a need. But equally certain, it is not a special need," Watson wrote.

In her March 9 request for a temporary restraining order , Taylor-Failor said the county told her that she could not start work as scheduled on March 16 without a urine test.

On March 11, the county filed a motion in opposition, claiming that Taylor-Failor had a "mistaken and paranoid assumption that the county wants to conduct a drug test on her. This is not true," the county said. It claimed it sought only a "basic urinalysis as part of a pre-employment medical examination. The urinalysis does not involve any screening for illicit drug use." (Citation omitted.)

It called Taylor-Failor's request for a TRO a "misplaced attempt to avoid a drug test."

But Watson restrained the county and ordered it to let her work. He set a hearing on her motion for May 8.

The ruling is limited to Taylor-Failor's case. It does not apply to any other prospective employees or previous applicants for county employment.

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