SAN FRANCISCO — A drug and alcohol testing program for 200,000 railroad workers nationwide was temporarily blocked Friday by a federal appeals court, three days before it was to take effect.
By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals prohibited the Federal Railroad Administration from implementing the program, the first of its kind in a federally regulated transportation industry, until the court rules on a constitutional challenge by labor unions.
Judges Dorothy Nelson and Stephen Reinhardt voted to block the program during the appeal. Judge Charles Wiggins dissented.
Ruling in Future
Union lawyer Lawrence Mann said a ruling in the case might be six to eight months away.
"To allow drug testing to go forward, particularly invasive drug testing and urinalysis where it might be unconstitutional, before they had a chance to look at the merits would be a miscarriage of justice," Mann said.
He said the case might determine whether the U.S. Department of Transportation will issue similar rules allowing drug and alcohol testing for federally regulated airlines, buses and trucks.