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The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday employers cannot subject all warehouse employees to random drug testing by designating them as having “safety sensitive” jobs.
In its 4-3 ruling, the court said companies must consider the specific duties of each worker when designing safety-based drug testing programs and not just where they work.
The majority rejected an argument from the state's largest business association that courts should not second-guess determinations made by employers on which jobs are more dangerous than others.
The decision interpreted a 1998 Iowa law that regulates how employers can conduct unannounced testing for drugs and alcohol in workplaces.
One option under the law that is popular with employers is to test only those workers who are in “safety sensitive” jobs in which an accident could cause death, serious injury or damage.
The case before the court involved a determination by Casey's General Stores that all workers at its Ankeny distribution warehouse were “safety sensitive” employees.
The company implemented random drug testing in 2016, citing concerns about widespread drug use.
Three employees who tested positive for either marijuana or amphetamines were fired, and a fourth who failed to provide an adequate urine sample was let go.
All four sued the company, raising a variety of concerns about how the drug testing program was conducted.
In a 4-3 decision, justices ruled that two of the employees were not in safety-sensitive jobs and therefore should not have been subject to testing under the Casey's program.
Their jobs involved light-duty work counting cigarette boxes in a secure, fenced-in area.
The court rejected challenges brought by the other two employees, who operated forklifts and lifted heavy objects and therefore were in safety-sensitive jobs.