The Supreme Court once again refused Friday to review a lower court decision that the government can require an entire class of its workers to undergo random drug testing.
The court, without comment, let stand a ruling that federal workers holding "secret" security clearances can automatically be required to take drug tests.The American Civil Liberties Union, defending the 30 employees fighting the policy, claim it could affect more than 2 million federal and federally regulated workers.
The high court has never decided the legality of random drug testing, and this marks what is believed to be the ninth time the court has refused to speak on the issue.
But in the past two years, lower courts repeatedly have interpreted the court's silence as permission to uphold random drug testing.
In 1989, the court upheld non-random government drug testing for those applying for Customs Service jobs involving drug interdiction, carrying a firearm or access to classified information. The court stopped short of giving absolute approval of drug testing for those who handle classified information in other jobs.
In a second case decided the same day, the high court upheld drug testing of railway workers involved in serious accidents.
The present case involves a policy governing workers in three agencies within the Executive Office of the President: the Office of Administration, Office of Management and Budget and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Under the EOP plan, most of the workers in those three agencies are required to undergo random urinalysis drug testing.
The plan initially justified the testing on the grounds drug usage could "result in actions that would jeopardize the life of the president."
But a federal district court in Washington, D.C., rejected the plan.
Months later, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia allowed random drug testing for some government employees with "top secret" clearances.
The district court then agreed EOP workers with "top secret" clearances could be required to undergo random drug testing, but not those with the less-sensitive "secret" clearance level.
Last November, the D.C. Circuit, by a 2-1 vote, said those carrying "secret" national security clearances also could be tested.
The ACLU claimed the ruling involved the "unreasonable, automatic imposition of mandatory random urinalysis drug testing on federal employees holding the label of a 'secret' clearance without the case-by-case inquiry" mandated by the Supreme Court in its 1989 rulings.
The Bush administration said there is little difference between the "top secret" and "secret" classifications, so both should be eligible for random drug testing without implicating the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.