Drug Testing for Unemployment Benefits
Once an employee is terminated due to a positive drug test, can they collect unemployment benefits? It depends on the written drug free workplace policy you have in place. It’s important to address in your policy that substance abuse is a misconduct and that a positive drug or alcohol test is a violation of that policy, which will result in termination of employment. With that writing in place, then the unemployment benefits can be denied. Unemployment benefits are based on state laws and most states address this and make it clear that those terminated for a positive drug or alcohol test cannot collect unemployment. As an employer, the most important component of this is your written comprehensive drug-free workplace policy.
What about those on unemployment benefits, will they be drug tested?
For the past decade, legislators have gone back and forth on the topic of unemployment drug testing. Several states have passed bills allowing, but not requiring drug testing for a displaced worker trying to collect unemployment benefits. Some states, like Florida, have received backlash from the American Civil Liberties Union saying that their drug testing policies represent a form of unreasonable search and seizure. Regardless of your personal beliefs, this is a hot topic and one that is not going away anytime soon.
The Original Proposal
In 2012, Congress adjusted the existing laws to allow for unemployment testing where on-the-job testing was common practice-- DOT employees for example. The occupations that fit under this umbrella have been argued over the past few years and it has left us with a murky view of where we stand. All in all, the Labor Department and state legislators need to come to an agreement on who can be tested and at what time.
In September of this year, Texas state representative Kevin Brady introduced a bill that would give states the ability to drug test certain unemployment applicants. The language of the bill stated that, “Those who lost their jobs due to drug use or are seeking a job that generally requires new hire testing can be tested when applying for unemployment.” The key word there is ‘can.’ States are not required to test for unemployment benefits, but they would have the ability to do so if they choose. His bill would also authorize states to design programs to help those who might be abusing drugs to overcome their issues and find work.
What Does It Mean?
The battle between Congress and the Department of Labor really comes down to one key factor. Congress feels that they are in the right, while the DOL feels that unemployment testing is unjustly implying that those who are on welfare or collecting unemployment must have made bad decisions. Obama passed a bill on the issue in 2012 and much of the bill’s contents have still not been implemented. Only time will tell where unemployment drug testing is headed in the United States.
National Drug Screening is a full service drug and alcohol testing company that provides Medical Review Officer (MRO) services and web based drug testing software. Our drug testing centers are open daily and are available for individuals, court ordered programs and testing for colleges and universities. Who knows, we also might be conducting unemployment testing in the near future.
To get assistance with a written comprehensive drug free workplace policy, contact National Drug Screening.