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BNSF, nine unions delay USDOT's new drug test rule a second time

BNSF Railway Co. and nine rail labor unions have again gained a temporary postponement of a U.S. Department of Transportation rule that would require rail and transit workers to be observed when providing a urine sample for mandatory drug tests.

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit temporarily stayed the rule’s implementation, which was to take effect Nov. 1. The rule would apply to urine specimen collection in all return-to-duty cases following a positive drug test, and follow-up test after a positive drug test.

The postponement will remain in effect until the court rules on an emergency motion filed by BNSF and the unions to stay the rule. The court will consider the rule’s constitutionality and legality in regards to mandatory direct observation of urine samples and an associated “strip search” requirement.

In August, the Class I and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Transportation Communications International Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, and United Transportation Union obtained a motion in a U.S. circuit court to delay the rule’s implementation from a planned Aug. 25 effective date to Nov. 1.

Union officials believe the direct observation requirement is invasive and rail workers shouldn’t be submitted to an “embarrassing and humiliating” strip search and observed collection procedure without reasonable suspicion.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/3/2008