Last week a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously ruled (PDF) that the pre-employment drug testing policy of the Woodburn Library in Woodburn, Oregon, violates the Fourth Amendment. The court said the city of Woodburn, which runs the library, had not demonstrated any "special need" that would override a would-be page's reasonable expectation of privacy. The court rejected the city's claim that the position of library page is "safety-sensitive" (citations omitted):
Jobs are considered safety-sensitive if they involve work that may pose a great danger to the public, such as the operation of railway cars, the armed interdiction of illegal drugs, work in a nuclear power facility, work involving matters of national security, work involving the operation of natural gas and liquified natural gas pipelines, work in the aviation industry, and work involving the operation of dangerous instrumentalities, such as trucks that weigh more than 26,000 pounds, that are used to transport hazardous materials, or that carry more than fourteen passengers at a time. The work of a page, so far as the record discloses, entails nothing of this order of magnitude.
I don't know about that. If you put an oversized book on the wrong shelf, it could fall off and hit somebody's head. I bet that would smart.
The 9th Circuit relied largely on a 1997 case in which the Supreme Court overturned a Georgia requirement that candidates for public office undergo urine tests, which the Court viewed as a purely symbolic measure. By contrast, the Court has upheld suspicionless drug testing for railroad workers and for people seeking Customs Service positions that involve carrying a gun, handling classified material, or participating in drug interdiction. Based on a more paternalistic rationale, the Court also has held that public schools may constitutionally require students participating in sports or other extracurricular activities to surrender their urine. Woodburn tried to combine the safety and for-the-children arguments by noting that children use the library and pages sometimes fill in at the youth services desk. The appeals court did not buy it, but I think the Supreme Court might.