A person who fails an employer’s drug test would be ineligible for jobless benefits under a bill advancing in the South Carolina House. But the bill hardly faces smooth sailing.
The measure failed in a House Judiciary panel Thursday on a 2-2 vote. It still moves on— but without a favorable report when it reaches the full committee. Both Republicans on the subcommittee voted in favor, while both Democrats opposed. The full Judiciary Committee is handily controlled by Republicans, however. Republicans and some Democrats in the House supported a similar bill last year, but it died without a vote in the state Senate.
Rep. Eddie Tallon (R-Spartanburg) is sponsoring the legislation. “They have to be ready and willing and able to take a job,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “That’s a prerequisite of being on unemployment. So, if they’re offered a job and they can’t take that job because they’re on drugs, they don’t need to be drawing unemployment benefits.”
The bill would also revoke benefits if a person refuses to take an employer drug test. Tallon, who runs such a testing program in the private sector, says he views a refusal as an admission of guilt. “That’s the reason that they don’t take a drug test is because they’re on drugs or fear they may have the drugs in their system.”
Democrats opposed last year’s version of the bill, calling it an attempt to humiliate workers.
But one of the panel’s Democrats, Rep. Elizabeth Munnerlyn (D-Bennettsville) said Thursday she would be willing to support the concept if more protections are put in place to protect the identities of those who fail the test. “I want to make sure we protect the individual rights of those people,” she told South Carolina Radio Network after the meeting, “So we don’t circulate those results too broadly and get them in the hands of people who don’t need to have them.”
Munnerlyn abstained from voting on last year’s proposal, although she supported several Democratic efforts to lessen its restrictions.
She said she also wants to make sure that it is optional for employers to submit the test results to the state. “Employers may not want to report all of this information. We’re putting an additional burden on them.”
Tallon said it would be optional for businesses to submit the test results, but admitted the language was not clear. He said he would work to clarify that before the bill comes before the Judiciary Committee next week.