Florida Gov. Scott and union reach settlement to end lawsuit over state worker drug tests

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Florida Gov. Rick Scott's long running battle over whether the state could drug test state workers is finally coming to an end.

Scott and the union that represents state workers have reached a settlement in the case that would result in the testing of some employees — but would end the Republican governor's bid to submit all state employees under his control to random drug testing.

The settlement was filed in federal court on Monday. If approved by a judge, it will not only end the lawsuit, but will require the state to reimburse the Florida branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for $375,000 for attorney fees and costs.

"We are glad to have reached a settlement that would bring to an end the overly broad and unconstitutional crusade against so many of our members," union president Jeanette D. Wynn said in a written statement. "The settlement we've reached would significantly scale back that campaign, allowing a more limited testing program to go forward, while protecting the rights and dignity of many of our members who were unlawfully subject to suspicionless searches under the original executive order."

Shortly after he came into office in 2011 Scott ordered pre-employment drug testing and the random testing of roughly 85,000 state workers. The executive order was challenged by the union, and the testing was placed on hold. The order was struck down by a Miami federal judge but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed part of that ruling, concluding that some categories of workers in sensitive jobs could be subjected to such tests.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year refused to hear an appeal on the case.

The settlement filed Monday would exempt more than 1,000 job categories from random testing, but it would allow testing for certain jobs in 10 state agencies that report to Scott, ranging from a state park ranger to an electrician working for the Department of Transportation.

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represented the union in the lawsuit, estimated that roughly 7,000 employees covered by the union could be subjected to random drug testing.

John Tupps, a spokesman for the governor, pointed to the thousands of workers who would still be tested.

"We are pleased that the settlement will allow Florida to protect families by ensuring state employees working in the most critical areas of safety and security remain drug-free," Tupps said in an email.

Last month Scott decided against seeking U.S. Supreme Court review of a law that would have required applicants for welfare benefits to submit to mandatory drug testing. The law, a top priority for Scott in his first term, was ruled unconstitutional by two federal courts.


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