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Berkeley Co. deputy's lawsuit against drug test dismissed

September 12, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A judge has ruled that Berkeley County Sheriff Kenneth Lemaster did not violate a deputy’s privacy when he forced him to undergo a drug screening last year because the officer’s duties involve public safety and providing for the safety of others.

Senior Status Circuit Judge Thomas W. Steptoe dismissed the lawsuit that originally was filed against the sheriff and Berkeley County Council by Deputy Michael L. Buracker in June 2011 because the plaintiff “failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” according to a five-page order filed Aug. 31.

Steptoe cited state and federal appellate court opinions in granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case.

While drug testing of employees by employers was found by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in a 1990 decision to be indicative of an individual’s right to privacy, Steptoe noted the court also provided an exception for those responsible for public safety or the safety of others.

“The (state Supreme) Court noted that where a business is engaged in an activity which involves either public safety or safety concern for others, there is a legitimate reason for the implementation of a drug testing program since a drug-impaired employee would potentially increase the risk of harm to others,” Steptoe said in the dismissal order.

The results of the drug screen that Buracker took in April 2011 was negative, according to court documents.

Another deputy escorted Buracker to a clinic, where Buracker provided a urine sample for the test, according to Buracker’s complaint.

Buracker’s attorney said his client was told that there was a “rumor” that the deputy used illegal drugs when he asked Lemaster why he was given the test.

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