Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower on August 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

'Degrading' and 'Unconstitutional': Trump Reviewing Rule That Would Allow Drug Testing for Unemployment Benefits

"This type of futile and unconstitutional intrusion into people's privacy simply because they are out of work is unacceptable."

Jake Johnson

The Trump White House is reportedly reviewing a Labor Department rule that would give states the power to force people to pass a drug test before they can receive unemployment benefits, ignoring protests that such screenings would amount to demeaning and unconstitutional invasions of privacy.

"The rule itself would not automatically impose drug tests on the jobless but would let states screen people who file claims for unemployment benefits―fulfilling a GOP dream from the Obama years," HuffPost's Arthur Delaney reported. "In the wake of the Great Recession, after the national unemployment rate surged to 10 percent, several Republican-led states clamored for the right to obtain the bodily fluids of people laid off through no fault of their own."

The proposed rule was published the Federal Register last November and immediately came under fire from the ACLU and worker advocacy groups, which condemned the measure as overly broad and likely illegal. The Labor Department finalized the rule last week after a public comment period and sent it to the White House for review.

"The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches by the government. Courts have said drug testing is a search and subject to Fourth Amendment protections," the ACLU's Kanya Bennett and Charlotte Resing wrote in a blog post earlier this year. "So unless there are probable cause and individualized suspicion, there should be no search."

"Exceptions to this rule have been made when the government can show it has a 'special need' and that need outweighs individual privacy rights, but that is not the case here either," they added. "Simply put, the government is on very shaky ground if it thinks it can subject the unemployed to blanket drug testing."

In addition to constitutional concerns, Bennett and Resing also argued the Trump administration's rule would add "an unnecessary and degrading toll to the existing stigma of being out of work."

"Blanket drug testing just further demeans people who the government has no reason to suspect of using drugs," said Bennett and Resing. "This type of futile and unconstitutional intrusion into people's privacy simply because they are out of work is unacceptable."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Advocates Applaud as FTC Sues to Stop Microsoft-Activsion Mega-Merger

Biden's FTC, said one consumer campaigner, "is showing, once again, that it is serious about enforcing the law, reversing corporate concentration, and taking on the tough cases."

Brett Wilkins ·


Press Freedom Champions Renew Call for DOJ to Drop Charges Against Assange

"It is time for the Biden administration to break from the Trump administration's decision to indict Assange—a move that was hostile to the media and democracy itself."

Jessica Corbett ·


Oral Arguments Boost Fears of SCOTUS Buying Theory That Would 'Sow Elections Chaos'

"This reckless case out of North Carolina could explode the unifying understanding that power ultimately rests with the people of this country," one campaigner said of Moore v. Harper.

Jessica Corbett ·


War Industry 'Celebrating Christmas Early' as House Passes $858 Billion NDAA

"There is no justification to throw... $858 billion at the Pentagon when we're told we can't afford child tax credit expansion, universal paid leave, or other basic human necessities," said the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. "End of story."

Brett Wilkins ·


GOP Florida Lawmaker Behind 'Don't Say Gay' Law Charged with Covid Relief Fraud

"It does not surprise me that someone who exploits queer kids for political gain would be charged with exploiting taxpayers for personal gain," said one Democratic state lawmaker.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo