The Des Moines Register, Tuesday, January 20, 1998, Page 8A



Drug testing: Do we prize liberty?

        Gov.Terry Branstad claimed that Iowa has "a very weak [employee drug testing] law" (Register, Jan 9).   He's entitled to his opinion.  On the other hand, our present law does a superior job of protecting innocent workers from abuse while fully authorizing employers to take action against employees suspected of drug involvement.
        How can the governor make his claim without comparing Iowa's law to that of other states?  Iowa is one of only 17 states that regulate private-sector drug testing by statute.  Several other states offer private-sector employees some protection against random testing in their state constitutions or through wrongful-discharge tort law.  Neither avenue of relief is available in Iowa.  Moreover, many states without a drug-testing statute often have statutory language that permits union shops.  Workers in those states can be protected more easily through union contracts.
        More than half of those states with statutory language, Iowa included, require employers to have reasonable or probable cause to believe that employees are using drugs on the job before imposing drug tests.
        Eleven of the 17 states bar or place restrictions on random drug testing by employers.  In other states without constitutional, statutory or contractual language, employees lack protection in areas of confidentiality, confirmation testing, undue harassment, possible defamation, excessive discipline and other taken for-granted liberties.
        Our state motto is: Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain."  It perplexes me to comprehend that some politicians (often the same ones who live by the motto, "Get government out of our lives") are so willing to mandate an invasion into our private lives by those we barely know.
        The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall stated in U.S. vs. Salerno that "society's belief, reinforced over the centuries, that all are innocent until [proven guilty], like the companion principle that guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, is implicit in the concept of ordered liberty and is established beyond legislative contravention.
        What Governor Branstad and his business cronies are seeking is nothing more than special rights of totalitarian control for employers, bypassing the constitutional right to be free from arbitrary and discriminatoty searches and treatment.
        Iowa's current law strikes a strong balance between employers' right to test their employees and the employees' right to be free from intrusion and harassment.
        -- Marty Ryan,
        legislative coordinator,
        Iowa Civil Liberties Union
        446 Insurance Exchange Bldg.,
        Des Moines.

The Des Moines Register
Tuesday, January 20, 1998, Page 8A