Gone unnoticed in countless stories about the government shutdown is one tiny bit of information concerning Department of Transportation employees. Workers at the DoT will NOT be undergoing drug tests for the duration of the shutdown. That’s according to the Department of Transportation’s flatly titled “Operations During a Lapse in Annual Appropriations.”
As you might already know, DoT employees include air traffic controllers, which means, you guessed it, the people responsible for making sure planes don’t crash will not be doing drug tests for however long the government is shut down. Of the Department of Transportation’s 55,468-person staff, 18,481 will be furloughed, employees like air traffic controllers and safety inspectors are considered vital to air travel safety and will still be on the job.
The lack of drug tests isn’t the only way the government shutdown will affect the DoT: training for new employees will be suspended, facilities won’t undergo security inspections, there won’t be any new rules regarding aviation, and perhaps most disturbingly, personnel won’t undergo routine background investigations.
As for whether drug testing will be stopped at other agencies, that’s unclear. The Department of Homeland Security, Commerce, Health and Human Services, the Interior, and Justice don’t mention anything about drug testing in their official shutdown documents. But it might be safe to safe to assume that drug testing wouldn’t be such a huge priority. A call to the Department of Transportation’s Press Office was met with a voicemail…saying that the press officer was furloughed due to the government shutdown.
Oh, before any air traffic controllers take this as a cue to ‘get high’ (in a non-aviation capacity) marijuana use can be detected in standard drug tests for up to a week after the pot was consumed. And who knows, the government might not be completely up in smoke by then?