ACLU challenges county hiring policy

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A Kailua-Kona woman suing Hawaii County over its pre-employment medical examination policy started her job as a legal clerk Monday after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing the county from requiring that she submit a urine sample.

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A Kailua-Kona woman suing Hawaii County over its pre-employment medical examination policy started her job as a legal clerk Monday after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing the county from requiring that she submit a urine sample.

By issuing the ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson concluded preliminarily that requiring a urinalysis as a condition of employment would violate Rebekah Taylor-Failor’s Fourth Amendment rights.

According to the county, the sample is used to assess the applicant’s health. It does not involve a drug test.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Taylor-Failor, argues that the policy is an unjustified invasion of privacy for “non-safety-sensitive positions.” In addition to a urine sample, new hires also must disclose aspects of their physical and mental health history, according to the lawsuit.

Dan Gluck, ACLU Hawaii legal director, said a preliminary injunction is being sought to overturn the policy. A hearing on that motion will be heard May 8.

“The county can have stricter requirements, both pre-employment and ongoing employment, for safety-sensitive employees,” he said. “But the overall majority of employees at the county do not fall into that category.”

If Taylor-Failor wins the lawsuit, Gluck said it could be used to overturn similar policies around the state.

Laureen Martin, county assistant corporation counsel, said the county’s policy is long standing and mirrors other pre-employment policies at public agencies around the state.

She said the purpose is to “make sure that individual is able to perform the jobs and functions” required.

The urinalysis tests for “proteins, sugar, red and white blood cell counts, specific gravity, and nitrates,” the county said in its response to the motion for a temporary restraining order.

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It wasn’t clear if anyone has been denied employment because of the results of such tests.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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