Federal Job Training Program Applicants denied when they failed a drug test
About 2 percent of applicants for an Indiana job training program were turned away after failing a drug test, according to state officials who describe the mandatory testing as a success
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The program was launched in part because some business owners had questioned why drug users who would not be able to pass workplace drug screening were nonetheless allowed to participate in the federally funded job training program, the state Workforce Development Commissioner Mark Everson said.
Of the 1,240 applicants tested in the five months since the program was introduced July 1, 1,217 passed the test, the Department of Workforce Development said. Thirteen people, or 1 percent, failed, three refused to take the test, and seven more samples were so diluted that they needed to be retested, the department said.
Applicants were tested for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, the hallucinogen PCP and amphetamine and methamphetamine.
Everson believes the program, which has cost the state about $45,000 and that the U.S. Department of Labor describes as a national first, has been more successful than the numbers indicate.
“When people understand you’re going to drug test them, they walk away,” Everson said. “It discourages people from going through the process.”
Everson said the testing is specifically allowed under the federal Workforce Investment Act, which funds the job training program. He said he is confident the requirement would pass constitutional muster if it was challenged in court as some drug testing programs have been elsewhere. For example, a legal challenge successfully stalled a four-month-old requirement to take a drug test to qualify for welfare benefits in Florida.
Ken Falk, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, disagreed, saying he believed the drug tests violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled there are exceptions to the Fourth Amendment protections when there are special needs exceptions, for example where there are safety concerns, Falk said.
“So the question is: What is the special need justifying this search? It’s our contention there is no such need to impose a constitutional event, a search, on people in these jobs programs. So our concern is it’s a Fourth Amendment violation,” Falk said.
As for the argument about why the state should spend money on training people who won’t be able to pass drug tests when they seek employment, Falk said similar arguments could be made for almost any drug testing states might consider.
“It doesn’t justify an invasion of the privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment. That requires something a little more extraordinary than that,” he said.
The ACLU also is concerned that Indiana may try to expand drug testing. Two state Republicans say they have asked statehouse staff to draft bills that would require welfare recipients to pass drug tests before they can receive benefits.
Falk said the ACLU hasn’t yet challenged Indiana’s drug testing policy in court because it hasn’t been contacted by anyone complaining about it.