David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
February 23, 2012
While millions of Americans will continue to enjoy their modest payroll tax cut, many of them will now have to submit to drug testing as part of the deal struck between the two parties in Congress. As part of the compromise reached to extend the tax cut, Democrats agreed to a Republican provision giving states the right to require those seeking unemployment benefits who were fired for drug use to undergo testing administered by the state. What’s strange about this concession is that workers who are fired for drug use are not eligible for unemployment benefits anyway.
However, a second section of the bill is likely to impact hundreds of thousands of individuals. This section applies to workers applying for jobs in industries where drug testing is prevalent even if the workers have never been laid off because of drug use. Any state that chooses to apply this rule will shift the financial burden of drug testing from employers to state taxpayers. The Department of Labor has not yet announced which industries will qualify for the drug testing provision
Some opponents of the bill have proposed that members of state legislatures who approve drug testing applicants for unemployment benefits should themselves be tested for drugs since they too receive government benefits.