Reviving a lawsuit by black police officers who claimed hair testing for drugs discriminated against them, a federal appeals court has ruled that hair testing "plus urinalysis" could be a reliable alternative to hair testing alone.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a trial court decision against ten Boston Police Department employees who claimed that the hair test alone was discriminatory. According to the court, hair tests showed that 99 percent of white workers did not use illegal drugs and 98 percent of black employees did not use them.
The court said that amounted to a disparate impact on the black officers, and that a hair test plus urinalysis could have been offered to them instead. The trial court must reconvene for a jury to decide whether "hair testing plus urinalysis" would be more fair to the officers.
"The record contains sufficient evidence from which a reasonable factfinder could conclude that hair testing plus a follow-up series of random urinalysis tests for those few officers who tested positive on the hair test would have been as accurate as the hair test alone at detecting the nonpresence of cocaine metabolites while simultaneously yielding a smaller share of false positives in a manner that would have reduced the disparate impact of the hair test," the court said.