- Associated Press - Monday, September 14, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii County is settling two American Civil Liberties Union lawsuits by agreeing to change its panhandling laws and stop subjecting prospective county workers to urinalysis screening.

The ACLU of Hawaii announced the settlements Monday.

“I commend our deputies for their hard work on both of these cases,” Hawaii County Corporation Counsel Molly Stebbins said in an email. “The law in this area is always evolving. The settlement agreements ensure that our county’s laws and policies are consistent with applicable case law and strike the proper balance between constitutional protections and public safety concerns.”

In one case, the ACLU said the county will pay $115,000 in legal fees and stop requiring pre-employment urinalysis and other medical screening, except for some employees considered “safety-sensitive” such as police officers. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Rebekah Taylor-Failor, who was required to complete a urinalysis before starting work as a county clerk. The county said her drug test wasn’t going to screen for drug use, but assess her health.

The ACLU argued the test reveals private medical information such as whether someone is diabetic, pregnant or has a sexually transmitted disease and that the screenings were unrelated to job requirements. A federal judge ruled the county couldn’t explain why it was entitled to her urine before starting work in a clerical, non-safety-sensitive job, the ACLU said.

Taylor-Failor continues working for the county. “I am grateful that I was able to begin working for the county without having to sacrifice the privacy of my medical information,” she said in a statement distributed by the ACLU.

In the other case, the county will pay $80,000 in fees and has repealed code provisions that criminalized solicitation and begging. The ACLU argued that interfering with a homeless man holding a sign seeking help violated his right to free speech. Last year, Justin Guy was cited by police for standing on a road while holding a sign saying “Homeless Please Help.” Charges were later dropped.

A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the county from interfering with Guy’s sign-holding.

“The county should treat homeless people with dignity, and recognize that we have constitutional rights - including the right to free speech - just like everyone else,” Guy said.


Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at https://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .

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