Drug users could lose jobless benefits

LANSING (AP) – Michigan’s unemployed would put their jobless benefits at risk by doing illegal drugs if legislation approved Thursday by the Republican-led state House gains more traction.

Businesses would not be required to notify the state when job applicants fail a drug test. But if companies do pass along the information, applicants not hired because of a failed drug test would lose their cash benefits.

Recipients also would be cut off if employers report that they refused to take a drug test. The bill, passed 82-24 over opposition from some Democrats and sent to the GOP-controlled Senate, would be in effect for one year – forcing lawmakers to renew it to keep the restrictions in place.

The measure’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Ken Goike of Macomb County’s Ray Township, said he proposed it after hearing from a local manufacturer that half of 100 people interviewed for jobs failed a drug test.

Michigan law requires those collecting unemployment checks to seek full-time suitable work and accept an offer of suitable work.

“If you are not able to pass a drug test … you are not available to take suitable work,” Goike said. He said the proposal is constitutional and passes federal muster.

Critics questioned the necessity of the change based off the anecdotal experience of one employer.

The legislation, said Democratic Rep. Jon Switalski of Warren, assumes that those without a job have done something wrong.

“That’s a stereotype we easily fall into,” he said. Defenders of the bill countered that their goal is to protect the integrity of the unemployment system and said Michigan would not mandate that companies report drug violations to the state.