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Fire Lieutenant Terminated For Twice Testing Positive For Marijuana

Marlon Cooper, a lieutenant with the Memphis Fire Department, first tested positive for marijuana in 2008. At that time, Cooper was not terminated from his employment, but instead was suspended for 360 hours and thereafter entered into an employee assistance program (EAP). Although Cooper was given a second chance, the City made clear that illegal drug use was not permitted by its personnel, noting in its 2008 suspension letter…

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Random Drug Testing For Corrections Employees Upheld

Roberick Washington was employed as a lieutenant at the Wyandotte County Juvenile Detention Center in Kansas City, Kansas. After a random drug test, he was fired for testing positive for cocaine. Washington filed a civil rights action against the County and several of his co-workers, alleging that the drug test was an illegal search that violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as breached his employment contract….

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Boston Police ‘Hair Test’ Back For Another Round

The continuing litigation saga involving eight Boston police officers terminated for failing the Police Department’s “hair test” for drugs appears to have yet more life left in it. When their hair tested positive for controlled substances, the officers sued, claiming that the hair drug test was racially discriminatory. After the officers lost an initial round in a federal trial court, the claim was heard by the First Circuit Court…

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Boston Hair Testing Not Reliable Enough

Between 2001 and 2006, as part of the Boston Police Department’s random drug testing program, ten officers submitted hair samples that tested positive for cocaine. In response, the Department terminated their employment. The ten officers appealed the terminations to the Massachusetts State Civil Service Commission. After extensive hearings, the Commission issued a decision upholding the terminations of four officers and overturning the terminations of six others. The officers and…

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Court Rejects ‘Passive Inhalation’ Argument

Duane Bennett was a Chicago Police sergeant and served on the Department for 22 years until his termination. During his employment, Bennett provided a urine sample for at least a dozen random drug tests. On July 10, 2012, Bennett provided a urine sample for another random drug test; the sample tested positive for 50 nanograms per milliliter of multiple marijuana metabolites on a screening test and 33 ng/ml of…

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False Positives Do Not Make Hair Tests Discriminatory

The challenges to the hair drug test used by the Boston Police Department took a curious turn with a decision from a federal court in Massachusetts. The case involved a racial discrimination claim brought by ten black officers against the Department challenging the constitutionality of the hair drug test administered by the Department to officers and cadets from 1999 through 2006. Under the program, a small percentage of officers…

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Alcohol Testing Law Does Not Shield Trooper From License Revocation

Nicholas Morse is a Minnesota State Trooper. Morse arrived in his squad car at a training assignment about ten minutes late. Lieutenant Quint Stainbrook asked Morse for his portable radio so it could be reprogrammed. Morse left the building and the lieutenant waited several minutes for him to return. Stainbrook gave up waiting and went to the training room, where another trooper reported to the lieutenant that he smelled…

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Expired Prescription Does Not Mean Deputy Violated Drug Policy

Mister Walker (that’s his real first name) has been a deputy sheriff with Cook County, Illinois for 32 years. When Walker’s random drug test was positive for oxazepam, the County opened an investigation into his drug use. During the investigation, Walker provided multiple prescription bottles, including ones from 1995 and 2000, one of which included a medication that would yield a positive result for oxazepam. A merit board conducted…

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PCP Not The Same As Alcohol For Purposes Of Race Discrimination Claim

Following his arrest for Driving Under the Influence, Antjuan Proctor entered a “back-to-work agreement” in lieu of termination from the Fairfax County, Virginia Fire and Rescue Department. Under the Agreement, Proctor was required to abstain from all mood-altering substances and submit to random, unannounced drug and alcohol testing. Less than two months after he entered the Agreement, Proctor tested positive for the illegal drug phencyclidine (PCP). Proctor challenged his…

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Boston PD Hair Tests Ruled Invalid

A Massachusetts trial court has not only upheld but expanded on a ruling by the state’s Civil Service Commission that struck down the use of hair tests as part of the random drug testing program for the Boston Police Department. The case involved the termination of ten officers who had tested positive for cocaine. The Commission overturned the discharges of six of the officers, finding that the only evidence…

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No Second Try For Employer In Drug Case

Michael La Porta is a corrections lieutenant for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. When La Porta tested positive for methamphetamine on a drug test, he appealed the termination decision. At a hearings board, the Department told the administrative law judge it needed a continuance because its one witness, a doctor who would have testified about the test results, was unavailable. The judge telephoned the witness, who said…

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Corrections Officer Who Used Medical Marijuana Wins Job Back

Lyn Wilson was employed as a correctional officer with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Wilson worked at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad. In April 2007, Wilson began experiencing “massive” headaches. In May 2007, Wilson consulted her primary care doctor, Dr. Hoffman. Hoffman diagnosed migraine and prescribed a series of medications, none of which relieved the headaches. Hoffman also suggested that Wilson see a doctor about using…

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Federal Statute Does Not Protect Confidentiality Of Firefighter’s Drug Screen

Steven Payton was employed as a lieutenant with the Memphis, Tennessee Division of Fire Services. On December 10, 2008, Payton submitted to a random drug screen while on duty, and he tested positive for marijuana. Following an administrative hearing, Payton was suspended without pay for 360 hours, and he received a management referral to the City’s Employee Assistance Program. Approximately six weeks later, on February 4, 2009, Payton was…

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Post-Incident Breath Test Ruled Constitutional

The unions representing New York City’s police officers, detectives, and sergeants brought a lawsuit challenging NYPD Interim Order 52, which requires that a breathalyzer test be administered to any NYPD officer involved in a shooting that results in injury or death to a person in New York City. The unions challenged the Order as an unconstitutional search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. A federal court upheld the Order,…

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Arbitrator’s Independent Research On Steroids Results In Overturning Of Decision On Firefighter’s Termination

On September 24, 2007, Travis Quesada was dismissed from his employment with Tampa, Florida Fire Rescue after a second drug test came back positive for suspicious levels of the metabolite 19-norandrosterone. This result suggested that Quesada had taken the anabolic steroid Nandrolone and had been untruthful in his responses to departmental and medical inquiries regarding steroid use. Quesada filed a grievance, maintaining that he had not taken illegal anabolic…

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Fire Captain Files Appeal In Wrong Place, Loses Challenge To Suspension

On March 12, 2007, James Berlo, a captain in the Boston Fire Department, tested positive for a narcotic when administered a random drug test by the Department. The Department’s Hearing Board imposed a one-month unpaid suspension. The Board’s decision informed Berlo of his right to appeal to the Boston Civil Service Commission. Bypassing the Commission, Berlo challenged his suspension in court. When his lawsuit was dismissed, he appealed to…

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Forfeiture Of Pension Too Harsh A Penalty For Firefighter’s Cocaine Use

Thomas McDougall was a 25-year member of the Fire Department of the City of New York. After a positive random drug test confirmed the presence of cocaine in McDougall’s system, a “Step-1” conference was held to review the charges for violation of regulations brought against McDougall by the Department. Following that conference, a deputy assistant chief of the Department recommended that, although he found McDougall guilty of all charges,…

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Hearsay Problems Doom Firefighter’s Drug Test

Edward Neal has served as a firefighter for 25 years with the City of Augusta, Georgia. Department employees are subject to random drug tests. When Neal was tested, a technician collected a urine specimen from Neal and sent the sample to an independent laboratory for testing. The written lab report indicated a result of “positive” for marijuana, and the result was sent from the lab to a physician employed…

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New York Police Have No Right To Bargain Over Method Of Drug Testing

The New York Police Department randomly tests its members for drugs. For a number of years, the testing was conducted on either the urine or hair of members. In 2005, the Department switched to a methodology for hair testing known as radioimmunoassay, or RIAH. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association filed the equivalent of an unfair labor practice complaint, alleging that the method of drug testing…

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Police Department’s Sick Time Policy Violates ADA

The Massachusetts Division of Labor Relations has struck down the sick-time verification policy of the Dracut Police Department, finding that the policy violated several provisions of the applicable collective bargaining agreement. Similar to recent federal court decisions striking down overly intrusive sick-time verification policies, Dracut’s policy was also found to be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An arbitrator appointed by the State ordered the Town…

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Drug Test Runs Into Hearsay Problems

Michael Brown was employed as a corrections officer by Monmouth County, New Jersey for 17 years. On July 13, 2004, Brown was randomly selected for a drug test pursuant to the County’s policy. When the test was reported as positive for marijuana use and the County announced its intention to terminate Brown, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge. Two witnesses testified on behalf of the County…

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No Reasonable Suspicion To Test Officer For Steroids

John Richard is a ten-year veteran of the Lafayette, Louisiana Police Department. Richard was friends with several individuals who became the target of a drug investigation by the Department. Department investigators raided the apartment of one of the suspects, and discovered both marijuana and steroids. During an internal affairs investigation that followed, the Department ordered Richard to take a drug test. Richard tested positive for steroids, and was subsequently…

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