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ACLU Weighs in on Unemployment Benefits for Drug Users

Let’s start with a re-cap of a few stories in the news over the past few years. At some point in time, probably over a decade ago, employers started drug-testing prospective workers. At first it struck people odd that they would have to “pee in a cup” in order to become a bank teller or a police officer or several other jobs. Then it was extended to other jobs: truck drivers, etc. Eventually it became fairly commonplace for this to be a part of seeking employment, and labs sprung up all over the place to do the testing for, oh, say, $45 a person, one of the current going rates.

All of this time, organizations such as the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) were raising a ruckus about personal rights and privacy and fighting the practice. Many citizens felt torn between seeing the employers’ right to have an employee who wasn’t getting high and not having to undergo a test that was a bit undignified, if not actually invasive. Others pointed out that just because someone is drug free on the day of the test doesn’t mean that he is drug free on the day after the test, so they found it a waste of money, and it was especially argued when the job was public and the money came from the taxpayers.

Now, during the past year the big arguments have been over whether high school students should be drug tested in general or just if they are in extra curricular activities or about to attend a prom. The other story all over the map regards whether welfare recipients should be tested and if they should be denied benefits if the test was positive.

Today’s story, from February 2012 concerns whether unemployed people, already getting unemployment benefits should keep them or not. There is a proposal before the House Judiciary Committee in Columbia saying that once a person applies for a job and gets turned down because of a positive drug test that the employer would have to report it to the government and then the benefits would be cut off. There is a proposal in the Senate that would require all jobless workers to pass a drug test to collect their benefits, but this one has been said to be against federal law.

The funny thing is, since the last decade has gotten us all used to drug testing and most jobs require it, most citizens say, “Yeah, I have to do it, so should they.” Time will tell whether the measure will be passed or just argued over once again.


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