Wisconsin One Step Closer to Drug-Testing Workers Who Seek Unemployment Benefits

Feb 15, 2017

The U.S. House has voted to scrap a recent Dept. of Labor regulation, to the delight of Governor Scott Walker. For some time, he has wanted Wisconsin to drug test laid-off workers who apply for unemployment insurance, but Walker says the Obama administration set narrow circumstances in which states can drug test UI applicants, such as, if the person's occupation requires a firearm.

Walker says employers often complain that they can't find workers because too many would-be employees can't pass a drug test. He says state testing would identify those with problems and refer them to treatment. Walker, along with the governors of Texas, Mississippi and Utah have been urging Congress to replace the rule with one that gives states more leeway in deciding when to test UI applicants. On Wednesday, the House vote went in that direction.

According to a release from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office, Utah saved more than $350,000 in the first year alone, when it barred drug users from receiving unemployment benefits. The release states that, "giving unemployment insurance only to those who stay clean provides a great incentive for people to stop using drugs."

Democratic House members who oppose the change say expanding drug testing beyond the Obama administration's rules is designed to embarrass and deter laid-off workers from seeking benefits.