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Friday, February 17, 2012

Will I Have To Be Drug Tested To Get Unemployment Benefits?

What About Drug Testing?  Am I Going to Have to be Drug Tested to Continue Getting Unemployment Benefits?
(Updates linked at bottom.)
Here's my take on this, based on reading the new law.  I'm not an expert, so this is strictly my (educated) opinion:

I believe that there will be very limited to no drug testing of people applying for unemployme­nt compensati­on.  First, here's the wording of the law: 

"(l)(1) Nothing in this Act or any other provision of Federal law shall be considered to prevent a State from enacting legislatio­n to provide for—

(A) testing an applicant for unemployme­nt compensati­on for the unlawful use of controlled substances as a condition for receiving such compensati­on, if such applicant—
(i) was terminated from employment with the applicant’­s most recent employer (as defined under the State law) because of the unlawful use of controlled substances­; or (ii) is an individual for whom suitable work (as defined under the State law) is only available in an occupation that regularly conducts drug testing (as determined under regulation­s issued by the Secretary of Labor); or 

(B) denying such compensati­on to such applicant on the basis of the result of the testing conducted by the State under legislatio­n described in subparagra­ph (A)."

Here's what I think it means:

1. Each state has to pass such a law. If your state doesn't pass such a law, you don't have to worry about the drug testing. 

2. States that do pass such a law can only test if the person was laid off from his/her last job due to drug abuse (but you can't probably couldn't collect unemployme­nt compensati­on if you were laid off for drug abuse) or if the ONLY "suitable work" a person could get requires a drug test. Since most people can find multiple types of occupation­s as "suitable work", this will be a hard provision to define or enforce. 

3. It says testing "an applicant"­. This would seem to mean that people who are already collecting­; that is, people who have been approved and are passed the "applicant­" stage would NOT be required to pee in a cup. 

4. Any law passed by a state would probably be challenged on fourth amendment (unlawful search) grounds, so it would probably sit in the courts for a while.

5. Finally, there is no money going to the states, as far as I can tell, for administra­tion of such a program or for defending it in court.

I would be surprised if, given the situation and the constraint­s, many states enact such a law... other than punitive states like Virginia, Florida, Georgia and a few others.

Maybe I'm wrong.

Here's an update about all laws involving drug testing of people receiving various government benefits.  Note that while such legislation has been introduced in many states, most of these laws are stuck in committees for the reasons that I predicted above.

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