Federal Drug Tests: Color Them Blue : U.S. Plans to Stain Water in Toilets, Use Restroom Monitors

Associated Press

Federal employees inclined to cheat on urine tests in the government’s anti-drug campaign would be up against restroom monitors, thermometers and blue toilet water, under guidelines issued today.

The regulations were immediately labeled by the head of a government workers’ union as “a comic exercise in Tidy Bowl justice.”

The procedures for conducting drug tests on federal workers were announced by Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, Health and Human Services Secretary Otis R. Bowen and Office of Personnel Management Director Constance M. Horner.

They emphasized that a two-tier test system will be used to avoid false positive results leading to action against employees selected for testing and that the emphasis will be on rehabilitating people with drug problems.


Purpose Isn’t Firing

“Our purpose here is not to fire employees,” said Meese.

But Horner acknowledged that dismissal is contemplated for employees who do not respond to treatment and test positive to a second round of tests and that dismissal after an initial positive result is possible for some in particularly sensitive positions, such as Secret Service agents.

Under the guidelines, monitors will be placed in restrooms where urine samples are given but will stay outside the toilet stalls. Toilets in the stalls will be filled with blue water and the temperature of the samples will be taken within four minutes to ensure their accuracy.


“At the collection site, toilet-bluing agents shall be placed in the toilet tanks so the reservoir of water in the toilet bowl remains blue,” the guidelines say. This is designed to keep test subjects from submitting water from the bowl as their urine samples.

1.1 Million Subject to Tests

About 1.1 million employees in sensitive jobs throughout the government are to be subject to drug testing ordered by President Reagan.

In Louisiana, the National Treasury Employees Union has filed a lawsuit in an effort to prevent the U.S. Customs Service from imposing drug tests on its employees.


The head of that 120,000-member union, Robert M. Tobias, said the new testing guidelines “add more insult to constitutional injury to federal employees who, after having been accused by the President of being guilty before proven innocent, are now being labeled as potential cheats.”

He called the regulations “further onslaughts on employee Fourth Amendment rights and a comic exercise in Tidy Bowl justice.”

Risk of Dismissal

“The Administration continues on in its quest to use federal workers as models by forcing them to line up at the stalls, go while being observed and risk firing if they do not urinate in official government blue-stained toilets,” Tobias said in a statement.


Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said today that he does not believe the proposed precautions would adequately protect against cheating and ensure an accurate test.

“For a urine test to be anywhere near accurate you not only have to have the chemical capability to test, but you have to be assured there’s no way to thwart the results--so you literally have to have someone suffer the indignity of having someone standing there physically watching them give the urine specimen. Otherwise there is no possibility of there being any accuracy at all,” Biden said.