Home products maker Sterilite Corp. scored a victory before the Ohio Supreme Court Aug. 26 when the justices ruled in favor of the injection molding firm in an employee drug testing case.
The court, in a split 4-3 decision, sided with the Townsend, Mass.-based firm against four current or former employees who sued, alleging that a company policy requiring that urine tests be directly observed by another person violated their privacy.
The company has a manufacturing plant in Massillon, Ohio.
A majority opinion written by Justice Sharon Kennedy ruled that when an at-will employee consents, without objection, to the test they cannot raise common law privacy claims.
But the minority opinion from Justice Melody Stewart said that the privacy of the employees was violated because it required that an employee of Sterilite's third-party testing firm observe employees' genitalia during the urine test, a so-called "direct observation method," or else they could be terminated.
Stewart wrote that the "complaint stated sufficient facts to show that Sterilite coerced appellees to submit to the humiliation of having their genitalia directly observed as each of them produced or attempted to produce a urine sample."
The ruling said that Sterilite's drug testing policy allowed testing for three reasons: as part of an accident investigation; when an employee is suspected of impairment; and randomly at periodic intervals.
The four employees were tested in October and November 2016. The ruling said two of the employees are currently employed there and two are former workers. Three were selected at random and the fourth was chosen based on suspicion of impairment, the court said.
The case had divided lower courts. The trial court sided with the company, but an Ohio appellate court ruled in favor of the employees.
Sterilite hailed the high court's decision.
"The Supreme Court of Ohio has held that Sterilite's drug testing procedure is consistent with employees' privacy rights," the company said. "Sterilite takes its current and former employees' privacy very seriously, and we have an obligation to provide our workforce with a safe working environment. We are gratified that the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the plaintiffs' claims."