Hawai‘i County Settles Lawsuit Over Pre-Employment Medical Testing

County will no longer force workers to submit to urinalysis, reveal private medical history

Affiliate: ACLU of Hawaii
September 14, 2015 4:45 pm

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Honolulu – The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai‘i Foundation and the law firm of Peiffer Rosca Wolf Abdullah Kane & Carr today announced settlement of a lawsuit against
Hawai‘i County over its practice of urinalyses and other invasive medical screenings as a condition of employment. The County will cease the practice, except for the approximately 3%
of employees defined as “safety-sensitive” workers (such as police officers).

The federal lawsuit was filed March 9 on behalf of Rebekah Taylor-Failor, a Kailua-Kona woman who was about to begin working for the County as a Legal Clerk II (an administrative
position). After giving Taylor-Failor a conditional job offer, the County required her to complete a detailed, personal questionnaire about her medical history, and then demanded she give a urine sample for analysis – just as the County required of all its prospective employees. Taylor-Failor asked the Court to allow her to start working without submitting to a urinalysis; on March 13, the Court granted that request, ruling that “the urinalysis would violate Taylor-Failor’s Fourth Amendment rights[.]”

The lawsuit challenged the County’s requirement that all prospective employees submit to urinalysis and answer questions about their medical histories, regardless of the physical duties
the applicant would perform on the job. The ACLU argued that urinalysis testing reveals highly sensitive private medical information – such as whether an individual is diabetic, pregnant, is biologically male or female, has high cholesterol, or has a sexually transmitted disease – and that the tests were not related to actual job requirements of a particular occupation. The ACLU’s attempts to resolve these problems without litigation (in 2013) were rebuffed by Hawai‘i County, so the ACLU and co-counsel Adam Wolf filed the lawsuit asking the Court for a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the County from violating Taylor-Failor’s constitutional rights to privacy.

The Court granted the request, noting in its order that “the County has proffered no explanation as to why it is entitled to search Taylor-Failor’s urine before she may begin employment in her light duty, clerical, non-safety-sensitive position…. Employment requirements cannot stand where they violate rights of a constitutional dimension.”

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