Random drug tests of drivers ruled outWASHINGTON...


April 08, 1992|By Carol Emert | Carol Emert,States News Service

WASHINGTON PAY CAP: — Random drug tests of drivers ruled out

WASHINGTON -- Government employees have won another drug-testing victory with a federal judge declaring that random testing for Department of Health and Human Services drivers is "unreasonable and hence unconstitutional."

Advocates of federal workers say this is just the latest round in the battle against a 1986 executive order that instituted a program of mandatory random drug testing of government employees.

Since then, the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union and the American Civil Liberties Union have engaged in a number of court challenges to narrow the scope of the testing.

George King, spokesman for NTEU, calls the ruling in late March a major victory for federal employees, and characterizes it as one more chip out of the comprehensive 1986 mandate.

"We're going at this agency by agency, department by department," he says.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene wrote that the government testing requirement exists out of concern for "the safety risk that an impaired government driver might pose to other drivers on the road.

"While not insubstantial, this is obviously no different than the interest the public and the government have in keeping any potentially impaired driver off the road," Judge Greene wrote.

Although the ruling applies only to HHS couriers and mail clerks who operate agency vehicles, Mr. King says this and other such decisions "certainly will be referred to" in future legal battles.

The pay cap on the wages of blue-collar federal workers could be lifted without costing the government a dime, the American Federation of Government Employees says.

The Department of Defense, which employs a majority of the government's wage-grade workers, budgets for pay increases to into effect Jan. 1. But wage-grade raises actually are enacted on a staggered basis throughout the year, based on completion of regional surveys.

The resulting gap between the budgeted amount and actual expenditure leaves more than enough money to fund pay increases that would accompany the lifting of budget caps, according to AFGE.

The government should have an extra $740 million on hand, given three inconsistencies in DOD's accounting, the AFGE says. Those are: DOD's practice of "rounding down" pay increases, the assumption that all wage-grade workers are paid Jan. 1, and the assumption that all blue-collar workers receive the same pay raise as white-collar workers, although many receive less.

The entire cost of eliminating the pay cap, based on data provided by the administration, is less than $700 million, the AFGE says.

In a news release, the AFGE accused DOD of using the money "for unspecified -- and possibly unauthorized -- agency operations."

Rita R. Mason, an AFGE vice president, is scheduled to outline the pay-raise plan tomorrow before a House Administration subcommittee.

Career guide:

The American Society for Public Administration has released a women's career guide called "Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling." The book can be purchased for $5 by writing to the ASPA at P.O. Box 366, Washington 20044.

The guide is available for $3 for members of the following organizations:

Defense Senior Professional Women's Association; Federally Employed Women; Government Finance Officers Association; National Association of Retired Federal Employees; National Forum for Black Public Administrators; Professional Managers Association; Presidential Management Alumni Association, and the Senior Executive Association.

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