A southwestern Indiana woman is suing a township trustee's office, alleging that she was denied government assistance because her disabilities prevented her from providing a required urine sample for a drug screening test.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the federal lawsuit Thursday on behalf of Mary Neale, a Posey County resident it contends has numerous physical conditions, including arthritis in her joints, fibromyalgia, obesity and sciatica, which is pain from a slipped or ruptured disk.
The suit names the Black Township Trustee's Office and Trustee Lindsay Suits. It alleges that Neale had obtained government assistance in 2014 or early 2014 through the trustee's office by passing a required urine drug-screening test applicants must pass before they can receive township aid for rent, food, utility and other assistance.
But last year, Neale was denied financial assistance because her back problems and arthritis prevented her from being able to provide a urine sample using a cup provided by a trustee's office worker, the suit states.
After Neale realized she couldn't produce a urine specimen using the cup, she requested a device called a "hat" that fits into a toilet to collect urine and would have allowed her to produce a urine specimen "without holding the cup," the suit contends.
A township trustee employee told Neale that no such "hat" would be provided to her "and that if she could not produce a specimen in the cup she could not receive assistance," according to the complaint.
The suit contends the failure of the trustee's office to accommodate Neale's disabilities "represents intentional discrimination" and that the urine drug screening violates the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable government searches.
The Black Township Trustee's Office was closed Friday and a telephone number for Suits' home in Mount Vernon rang unanswered, and a message seeking comment could not be left.
The suit states that Neale is impoverished and the sole income she receives for herself and her family is Social Security disability. Neale "strongly objects to having to provide a urine specimen and to being drug tested in order to apply for and obtain township assistance."
"The Constitution prohibits this type of suspicionless search and seizure. It is wrong to condition the receipt of government benefits on the waiver of fundamental rights that protect all of us," ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk said in a statement.
The complaint also argues the drug testing requirement violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and seeks a jury trial and a preliminary injunction preventing the office from requiring the drug test as a condition of receiving government assistance. It also seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees.