Georgia Drug Testing Policy Not Catching Jobless Druggies So Far

Georgia businesses have complained recently that they have had trouble finding workers who can pass drug tests. But since February, when the Georgia Department of Labor started encouraging businesses to report job applicants with dirty urine, not a single one has done so.

"We have not received anything since we sent notification to employers and put the website up back in February," Brenda Brown, director of the department's unemployment insurance division, said in an interview. "That doesn't mean we're not going to get one."

Federal law does not allow states to require the unemployed to pass drug tests as a condition for receiving unemployment insurance, but it does allow states to deny benefits to workers who fail an employer's or potential employer's drug test. Failing a drug test can be interpreted as being unavailable for work, since many businesses require new hires to be clean.

In December, Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, introduced a bill to require drug screening and testing for all unemployment benefit claimants, citing complaints from businesses in his district. A watered-down version of his proposal made it into a broader bill that became law in February; states will be allowed to test some claimants as soon as the U.S. Labor Department offers guidance.

Businesses in Kingston's district and elsewhere had told HuffPost about waves of would-be employees failing drug tests, but were unable to provide anything yet beyond anecdotes. National drug use surveys indicate the unemployed are twice as likely as people with jobs to use drugs, but the past two years of state and federal proposals to test people receiving unemployment insurance have yielded no data to suggest that people receiving benefits do drugs more than anyone else.

"The witch-hunt continues," said Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. "Despite the stunning lack of evidence of anything other than the most negligible drug use among the unemployed, Georgia plays to unsubstantiated stereotypes and, yet again, comes up empty. It would be refreshing to see Georgia show the same enthusiasm for job creation and re-employment that it does for combating the fictitious problem of rampant drug use among the unemployed."

It could be that businesses haven't reported any drugged-up applicants because the state Labor Department's initiative hasn't received much publicity. Businesses can download the form to report failed drug tests on a part of the state's website that also solicits tips for other types of potential unemployment fraud, such as refusing an offered job or continuing to receive benefits while working.