ADA lawsuit challenges town’s drug testing, benefits policy

Scales of justice, law book and gavel
Indiana Drug Testing Policies Scrutinized

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit against the town of Black Township, Indiana, on June 11 [PDF], on the basis that its drug testing program for people seeking public benefits violates federal disability discrimination law.

Black Township provides various programs to low-income individuals, to assist with food, health care, utility payments etc. Applicants for benefits must first submit a urine sample at the office of the Trustee of Black Township.

Mary Neale, whose sole income is Social Security disability benefits, applied for and received benefits in early 2013 and 2014.

However, when she most recently applied for benefits, in late 2014, her physical disabilities prevented her from providing a urine sample. Specifically, her back injuries and arthritis prevented her from positioning a cup to catch the urine.

Neale requested a urine hat: a receptacle that fits into the toilet to catch urine before it enters the water of the toilet. The Township denied the request, thus denying her the ability to apply for benefits.

The ACLU lawsuit alleges that the Township, by failing to provide the urine hat, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to reasonably accommodate Neale’s disabilities. The ACLU also argues that mandatory drug testing for benefits violates the applicant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

“This is a classic case of government mandating that a citizen waive their rights to get a government benefit,” Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, told the Indianapolis Star. “It is wrong.”

The brief, eight-page complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, is a class-action lawsuit, on behalf of all people applying for benefits in the Township.