Colorado Rights Blog


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ACLU Lawsuit Challenges Random Urine Tests at Greyhound Racetrack


March 16, 2000

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU) filed suit today to challenge a Colorado rule that requires all state-licensed participants in the greyhound racing industry to submit urine samples that will be tested for drugs. State officials demand the samples on a random basis, without any suspicion that the individuals to be tested have been using drugs.


"Random urine testing unfairly treats innocent workers like criminals, " said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. "It is a degrading and unnecessary invasion of personal privacy."


The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Cynthia and Gary Timm, Colorado Springs residents who in 1997 obtained a license to train greyhounds at kennels located at Colorado racetracks. After Colorado adopted the urine testing policy in 1999, Cynthia Timm was randomly selected and ordered to provide a sample of her urine. When she refused, her license was revoked.


"A urine test is a search that is governed by the requirements of the Constitution," Silverstein said. "It can be justified only by good cause, which was completely absent in this case. No state official ever had any grounds to suspect that Cynthia Timm was using drugs."


According to Silverstein, Ms. Timm justifiably relied on her rights when she refused to provide the sample. "The State of Colorado had no right to force our client to choose between her constitutional rights and her license to work as a trainer with her husband," Silverstein said.


In November, Gary Timm was selected at random. Because he could not afford to lose his license and his livelihood, Silverstein said, Timm submitted the sample under duress.


"Everyone agrees that drugs and alcohol don't belong in the workplace," Silverstein continued. "But random urine testing is an ineffective, unreliable, and senselessly degrading ritual that does not reveal current impairment." According to the ACLU, a worker can snort cocaine on the way to work and still test negative that same morning, because the cocaine will not have metabolized and will therefore not show up in the urine. On the other hand, a worker who puffs marijuana on Saturday night will test positive on Monday morning, long after the marijuana has ceased to have any effect.


"Courts permit random drug tests only when the government can demonstrate an overriding special need, " Silverstein said. "One example is jobs that are very safety-sensitive, where an impaired worker poses a serious risk of danger to the public. There is no such danger in this case, and no overriding special need. Colorado may be the only state that forces greyhound trainers like the Timms to submit to random urine tests."


The lawsuit, filed in Denver District Court, asks the court to restore Ms. Timm's license; to declare that the drug testing policy is unconstitutional; and to stop random tests in the future. Defendants are David Reitz, Director of the Division of Racing Events of the Colorado Department of Revenue, as well as the five members of the Colorado Racing Commission.

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