The four employees sued, accusing the companies of violating their right to privacy.
In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that the testing wasn’t an invasion of the Sterilite employees’ privacy.
The majority opinion argued that because the employees were “at-will” employees, signed consent forms and then provided or attempted to provide the urine samples after being told the testing company employee would be directly observing, the testing didn’t constitute an invasion of privacy.
The majority opinion said, “An employee who consents to drug testing cannot claim that the testing was highly offensive and invaded his or her right to privacy.” It later added that when the employees were told about the collection method, “At that time (the employees) had a second opportunity—consent or refuse—and (the employees) consented by their action” by producing or trying to produce urine samples.
The majority opinion said that under Ohio’s at-will doctrine, “Sterlite had the right to condition employment on consent to drug testing under the direct-observation method, and (the employees) had the right to refuse to submit to the direct-observation method.”
Justice Melody Stewart wrote in her dissenting opinion that the claim to invasion of privacy had nothing to do with being at-will employees. She wrote that Sterilite offered no reasonable justification for having testing employees directly observe employees produce urine samples over other less-intrusive methods, or evidence that it was necessary.
Stewart also wrote that the majority was distorting the employees’ consent, saying that the workers didn’t really have a choice but to agree to the testing or risk being fired.
“What indignities must an at-will employee suffer to avoid losing his or her income and benefits before the employee has a cause of action for invasion of privacy?” she wrote.