Drug testing for unemployment insurance? Yay or nay? This proposal has been heavily discussed in Wisconsin recently, gaining momentum in early 2015 when included in Gov. Scott Walker’s new budget.

As we have previously mentioned, the idea provoked debate from both sides of the aisle. Some felt that it would save Wisconsin money, while others felt it would deny eligible participants the services they were entitled to under law.

“Supporters believe that UI drug testing is a smart move for Wisconsin.”

And, it seems that the debate hasn’t cooled down, as more discussions in the state legislature are ongoing over whether or not drug testing should be a component of unemployment insurance in Wisconsin.

Bill garners strong opinions
Even though summer is almost here, the idea of UI drug testing hasn’t gone away in Wisconsin. In fact, there is currently a bill moving through the legislature – introduced by Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah – that would require applicants for unemployment insurance or state job training to first pass a drug test.

According to the Wisconsin-based media outlet The Capital Times, this bill has created strong opinions from fellow lawmakers. Recently, state senators took to the local TV show “UpFront with Mike Gousha” to talk about the legislation.

“This [proposal] isn’t punitive,” bill supporter Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Cedarburg, said on the show. “It’s not criminal. It’s nothing of the sort. But what it is, it’s a mechanism to get people help, to get them counseling, to take them from a place where they abuse substances to a place where they don’t.”

On the other hand, Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, raised concerns about the services in place to support people with substance-abuse problems, especially should they test positive during a UI screening.

“This is about being punitive,” Sen. Taylor argued. “This is not compassionate, either, in the sense that we have food deserts, we have individuals who have hunger issues. And now what you’re doing is saying you’re not going to be able to get food if you have a drug problem.”

At the moment, Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance rate is on the way down, now at 4.6 percent for March, according to the state Department of Workforce Development. While this is good news, it doesn’t relieve pressure on lawmakers looking for ways to cut UI costs and benefit residents at the same time. This will only mean the debate over UI drug testing will continue on for some time.

At Corporate Cost Control, we work closely with employers across the country to better manage the nuances of unemployment insurance. Legislation changes on the state level could impact you today, and we welcome any questions or concerns you may have on a wide range of topics.


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