Requiring employees to submit to a “dog-sniffing test” for illegal drugs
Correction Officers’ Benevolent Assoc. v City of New York, USDC, Southern District of New York, 15-CV-5914
The New York City Department of Corrections established a “zero tolerance” drug policy providing for the termination of any employee, uniformed (i.e., correction officers), or civilian, who violated the policy. Its justification: the policy serves important functions by acting as a deterrent against drug traffic in its facilities and ensured that “the security of penal institutions is not breached.”
A federal judge dismissed the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association’s [COBA] challenge to the New York City's requiring its correction officers to be searched when “drug-sniffing dogs” react positively to the individual. An officer could be suspended if he or she refused to submit to the search for contraband.
Judge Alison Nathan rejected COBA’s argument that searches aided by the drug-sniffing dogs violated its members' constitutional rights as well as New York State's Civil Service Law.
Judge Nathan ruled that COBA cannot claim its member's constitutional rights were being violated by their employer’s efforts to detect individuals attempting to transport drugs into the facility in violation of the law and the controlling Collective Bargaining Agreement. The court also rejected COBA claim that “drug-sniffing dogs” could produce “false positives.”
Other decision testing New York City’s Zero Tolerance Drug Policy include:
Roberts v New York City Office of Collective Bargaining, 113 AD3d 97, [Fire Department's determination of an appropriate penalty for illegal drug use relates to its primary mission of providing public safety];
New York City Fire Department v Armbruster, OATH Index #1350/12 [Firefighter who tested positive for cocaine in a random workplace drug test failed to demonstrate that he consumed the cocaine unknowingly];
Dept. of Corrections v Robbins, OATH 2030/99, [there are instances, particularly where a civilian employee is involved, when the “automatic penalty” under the department’s zero tolerance drug policy should not be applied].