• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that federal regulations requiring drug testing of railroad employees involved in train accidents did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

The Federal Railroad Administration, under its statutory authority to set safety standards, required employees to take a breath or urine test if they were involved in a serious train accident or if they violated safety rules. A court of appeals ruled that the tests could not be required without individualized suspicion. Writing for a 7-2 majority, however, Justice Anthony M. KennedyKennedy, Anthony M.;Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives Association[Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives Association] concluded that mandatory drug tests were reasonable in view of the government’s interest in safe transportation. It was not practical to require a warrant because of the speed at which evidence of drug abuse is absorbed by the body. A requirement of suspicion, moreover, could place the traveling public at risk because an employee’s performance could be impaired long before there was enough evidence to establish suspicion.Search and seizure;Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives Association[Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives Association]

The same day it issued Skinner, the Supreme Court also announced its approval of drug testing for customs inspectors in National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab[case]National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab[National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab] (1989). Later, in Vernonia School District v. Acton[case]Vernonia School District v. Acton[Vernonia School District v. Acton] (1995), the Court upheld random drug testing for students who participate in interscholastic sports. In Chandler v. Miller[case]Chandler v. Miller[Chandler v. Miller] (1997), however, the Court invalidated a Georgia policy requiring all political candidates to submit to drug testing.

Fourth Amendment

Labor

National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab

Privacy, right to

Search warrant requirement

Categories: History Content