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Positive Test for Cocaine Dooms Public Employee’s Claim

Roberick Washington was a lieutenant employed by the Wyandotte County Juvenile Detention Center (“County”) where he worked with the juvenile inmates. His position was classified as “safety sensitive.”

The County conducted a random drug test. Mr. Washington tested positive for cocaine and was fired. In its Human Resources guide, the County stated “failure to pass a drug or alcohol test is just cause for discipline including discharge.” The policy also stated that discipline had to be conducted in accordance with the HR guide, with suspension being recommended as the first step. It was also stated within the HR guide that its terms did not modify the at-will status of employees or the right of the County to bypass suggested discipline.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss Mr. Washington’s case in its entirety. First, the circuit court found that the County’s random drug test was not an unreasonable search and seizure. The safety sensitive nature of Mr. Washington’s job outweighed his privacy interests. Furthermore, Mr. Washington was found not to have a property interest in continued employment. The HR guide was clear that the at-will nature of his employment was not altered and that other discipline was acceptable. Lastly, there was no implied contract created by the drug testing policy or HR guide. The guide was clear that different discipline was not a violation of policy.