A Boston police officer found himself on the wrong side of inaccurate scientific evidence when he was denied employment based on a positive hair drug analysis. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is currently considering a case titled Boston Police Department v. Michael Gannon and The Massachusetts Civil Service Commissioninvolving the use of hair drug tests to determine eligibility for employment. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently heard oral argument in the case; the main focus of the argument is whether the hair drug test is a reasonable test of employment. The Boston police department has a strict policy that any positive drug test results in disqualification from employment; the legality of that policy was not challenged in this appeal.
The appellant in this case, former Boston Police Cadet Michael Gannon, was passed over for appointment as a Boston Police Officer because a hair drug test he was given came back positive for cocaine. In addition to the fact that the accuracy of hair drug tests has been refuted by some scientific experts, Mr. Gannon had also taken five other hair drug tests as a part of the recruitment and certification process and all five came back negative for drug use. When he learned that he was being denied a position as a full Officer with the Boston Police Department based on the positive hair drug test, which he maintains was not accurate, Mr. Gannon filed an appeal to the Civil Service Commission to contest the decision. The Commission determined that because of the unreliability of hair drug tests, the Police Department did not have reasonable justification for refusing Gannon the position. Being dissatisfied with that result, the Department sought judicial review before the Superior Court. The Superior Court reversed the Commission’s decision, and Gannon now appeals before the Supreme Judicial Court to have the Commission’s original decision reinstated. The Boston Police officer argued that the Superior Court judge should have given difference to the findings of the Commission.
Oral Argument before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court