VENTURA — A judge Tuesday ordered a halt to a drug-screening program at the 3M plant in Camarillo, saying the company's mandatory tests violate employees' right to privacy.
Ventura Superior Court Judge Allan L. Steele issued a preliminary injunction against 3M in a lawsuit filed by Michael A. Mora, 31, of Ventura, who was suspended from his job at the plant in June after he refused to take a company drug test.
It is the third time a California judge has stopped a company's drug-testing program based on a 1974 amendment to the state Constitution that declares privacy an inalienable right, according to the the American Civil Liberties Union, which has opposed such testing.
Although none of the state court rulings on company drug-testing plans have been at the appellate level, where they might become precedents for other cases, Richard A. Weinstock, who represented Mora, predicted that the ruling could change the way many California firms conduct anti-drug programs.
Attorneys for 3M would not say whether the firm will appeal the decision. Company spokeswoman Kitty Dill said 3M will immediately stop its random drug-testing program in Camarillo.
In his ruling, Steele said that the Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing company failed to show that its 11-month-old random drug-testing program significantly increased safety for the approximately 1,000 employees at the plant. A drug-testing program's impact on workers' right to privacy might be outweighed if the program alleviated a serious safety problem, the judge said.
The judge also said that he might have ruled in 3M's favor if the firm had shown that its drug-testing had significantly reduced a "major drug problem" at the plant.
"But I just don't see it," Steele said in court, adding that the firm did not show that employee accidents or productivity had been adversely effected by drug or alcohol abuse.
Traces of Alcohol
According to evidence presented by 3M attorney Thomas J. Ready, of 743 employees tested since the program went into effect last February, 15 tested positive for marijuana use, 12 tested positive for cocaine use and five had traces of alcohol in their blood.
Ready said the 3M drug-testing plan was created in part at the request of about 30 employees who had complained to management about the use and sale of drugs at the plant. The company's attorney argued that the drug-testing program did not violate a state constitutional guarantee of privacy because results were kept "under lock and key."
Employees who tested positive for drugs or alcohol have been offered counseling and referral to a rehabilitation program, and those who tested positive a second time were subject to firing, the company said, although no employees have been dismissed.
Mora, a seven-year employee who seals cartons at the plant, was suspended for two weeks without pay on June 26 for refusing to take a urine test, Weinstock said. Mora went to his own physician for a urinalysis, which showed no traces of drug use, the attorney said.
Two other 3M employees--an electrical engineer and a secretary--later joined Mora as plaintiffs in the suit. The three employees declined to comment on the ruling.