Ohio Workers Failing Drug Tests: Champion Personnel’s Angela Amastadi News Herald 2.12.12
By Admin

February 12, 2012

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By Max Reinhart

With Ohio’s unemployment numbers still high, more often than not, employers with job openings have their pick of numerous qualified candidates.

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But according to a state study, some of an increasing number of job candidates take themselves out of the race by failing employer-issued drug screenings.

The trend was spelled out in the Ohio House of Representatives’ Legislative Study Committee on Workforce Development Chairman’s Report.

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In the report, the committee’s chairman state Rep. Tim Derickson, R-Oxford, called the correlation of unemployment to substance abuse “distressing” and a “real issue” facing Ohio’s workforce.

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“The committee heard that many employers cannot find workers able to pass a drug test,” Derickson wrote. “Some witnesses suggested that staying on unemployment or in a treatment program is often preferable to an out-of-work individual over finding gainful employment.”

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The trend makes sense to Angela Amistadi, staffing manager for Garfield Heights-based Champion Personnel System, which also has offices in Mentor and Middlefield Village.

Amistadi said although she invariably comes across job seekers who cannot pass a drug test, those people shouldn’t be surprised that they’ll likely have to take one.

“I’ve been (with Champion) nine years and we’ve always done drug testing,” Amistadi said. “Even if a client doesn’t request it, we do it anyway.”

In her experience, about 5 percent of all job hunters will admit to the staffing company that they would not pass a drug screening. Another 5 percent will say they can, and fail.

However, Amistadi said those figures aren’t anything new. What has changed, she said, is the technology of drug testing and the number of substances those tests can detect.


“Back in the day there were things you could use to pass (a drug test),” Amistadi said. “Now they test for that, too.”

Also contributing to the effect is the sheer volume of tests that a job seeker may have to take.

“A lot of people think they’re in the clear once they pass our test,” Amistadi said. “Then the employer will do their own drug screening when they’re ready to take them on their payroll, and they’ll fail that.”

Dave DiBiase, a career development specialist at the Lake County Job and Family Service Department’s Lake1Stop, said the issue actually goes beyond just drugs.

“(Companies) are definitely screening more — but drugs is just one part,” DiBiase said.

Besides checking for illegal drug use, DiBiase said employers are doing more frequent and pervasive background and criminal history checks.

He says the rationale is simple: in this economic climate, employers can afford to be as picky as they want.

“The short answer is there are plenty of people who have never committed a crime who are seeking jobs and they’re going to get them over an ex-offender almost every time,” DiBiase said.

As of November, Ohio’s unemployment rate stood at 8.5 percent or 495,676 unemployed workers.

Even job hunters who fail a drug or background test have a tried and true recourse: state financial assistance.


However, multiple states, including Ohio, have taken or have begun to take steps to stop drug users who can exploit the system.

Last year, Florida’s legislature passed a law requiring welfare recipients to pass a drug test to remain eligible for those benefits.

While a federal judge later blocked the rule, which detractors contend is unconstitutional, other states have looked into similar mandates.

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania look into applying the law only for recipients with drug-related convictions. Indiana’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would require drug screenings for both welfare beneficiaries and elected officials.

Last year, former state Sen. Tim Grendell introduced Senate Bill 69, a measure similar to Florida’s.

While Grendell has since moved on to the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas, his replacement in the Ohio Senate, John Eklund, R-Russell Township, agrees in principle to the drug-test-for-welfare idea.

“Although I was not in the Senate to hear whatever testimony, if any, was offered on this bill, it strikes me initially as a reasonable effort to establish a very limited pilot program, the results of which might help to engage in a more detailed cost-benefit analysis of the use of assessments and drug testing to enhance the delivery of state aid to those in need,” Eklund said.

The concept has local support in the Ohio House as well. State Rep. Ron Young, R-Leroy Township, said the state should be able to make sure it’s not giving handouts to illegal drug users.

“If people are drawing unemployment, they’re supposed to be seeking a job,” Young said. “If instead they are doing illegal drugs then the state should have every right to withdraw that support.”

According to a 2010 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ report, 20.3 million illicit drug users ages 18 and older reside in the country, 6.9 million of whom are unemployed.


DiBiase said from where he’s sitting, these out-of-work users will continue to have increasing difficultly finding work screenings for drugs, and other red flags, that become cheaper and more accessible for even the smallest business.

“Even when the job market levels out again, I don’t think these screenings are going anywhere,” he said. “Employers are going to check because it’s low cost and cuts down on their liability.”