A number of states are mirroring private sector businesses in requiring drug testing for individuals; in this case, they're conducting screenings of the unemployed before those out of work can receive jobless benefits.
Proposed Kansas legislation would pave way for testing
Kansas recently made waves in the media after legislation introduced to the state's legislature would require job seekers within the state to first pass a drug test before they can receive unemployment benefits.
Senate Vice President and bill supporter Jeff King said his measure would resemble similar initiatives in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana and Mississippi. All of those measures explored the possibility of mandating unemployed persons submit to drug screenings when filing claims for jobless benefits. King said the legislation is a relatively new idea, as Congress only authorized states to drug test for unemployment benefits 11 months ago. The law would also require welfare recipients to pass tests.
"This is not a punitive measure," King said. "I believe this is a responsible, targeted approach to help families overcome the evils of drug addiction and ensure the proper use of welfare and unemployment benefits."
King also noted the legislation was introduced to close a loophole of sorts. Because many Kansas employers already drug test job applicants, someone looking for a job can be declined because of a failed test, yet still receive unemployment benefits from the state.
As such, the legislation would also require employers to notify the state when a prospective employee currently receiving benefits tests positive for illicit drug use during the business' own screening. Firms would also have to report when an unemployment insurance recipient refuses to take a drug test; both instances would enable the state to halt benefit payments.
Don Alexander, a Kansas businessman, told The Associated Press his first-hand experience of the effects of drug use on employees led him to believe the law is not an effort to punish offenders, but help them right the ship of their personal and professional lives.
"I have had the burden of firing people for abuse of almost every illegal substance," he said. "To me, this bill is not about saving money, it is not about punishing anyone. It is about motivating and empowering people to get back into life."
The Kansas law, if enacted, would require more compliance from businesses and demonstrates the overall trend of increased levels of drug testing. Employers potentially affected by the legislation or in other states considering like-minded measures can work with an HR provider to ensure they know what would be requested of them.