Suit filed against SEPTA over drug testing

      Local 234 of the Transport Workers Union and five SEPTA employees have filed suit against the authority in federal court, alleging that changes SEPTA made to its drug-testing policies violate some workers’ constitutional rights.

      The employees say that SEPTA’s announcement that it would be extending random drug and alcohol testing to a new group of employees violates their rights under the 4th and 14th amendments.

      The five employees all work as vehicle readiness coordinators, and their responsibilities revolve around coordinating and scheduling maintenance repairs on SEPTA vehicles and operating them in depots. They don’t operate vehicles carrying passengers.

      The suit was filed Sept. 10 in District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and asks the court to overturn the policy and award unspecified damages to the employees. Discovery was scheduled to begin Sept. 25.

      The union has also filed a grievance with SEPTA about the new policy.

      SEPTA employs about 40 vehicle readiness coordinators. Most are assigned to the job after having been declared medically unfit — because of an illness, injury or other medical condition — to work at their previous jobs with the authority.

      The union says that the work the coordinators perform isn’t a “safety-sensitive” position and thus shouldn’t be subject to random drug testing performed on employees who do things like operate SEPTA buses on routes. The union’s labor agreement with SEPTA allows the authority to carry out random drug testing of employees, like bus drivers, who could cause “extraordinary” hazards if they report to work under the influence, the suit says.

      SEPTA argues that the coordinators should be subject to random drug testing because they are required to have a commercial driver’s license and because they operate vehicles in SEPTA depots, according to spokesman Andrew Busch.

      Previously, the coordinators were subject to a drug test if there was a “reasonable suspicion” that they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the job.

      The authority announced in August that it would begin testing coordinators beginning Sept. 6. Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg issued an injunction stopping the testing on Sept. 11.

      Neither the local nor the law firm representing it returned messages left Monday afternoon.

Posted by Anthony Campisi. Contact him at

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