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Drug Testing Regulation Checks Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Author : Steven De Nazareth

Updated : June 11th, 2019

Since the 1960s, the federal laws have banned states from drug testing jobless people that apply for benefits. But after the recent legislation, Republicans now want all states to institute tests for benefits.

Currently, $1.6 million has been spent on drug testing jobless people that apply for unemployment benefits. Also, over $2 million was spent in the last two years alone. This money could have been spent to expand welfare benefits or drug treatment programs.

Drug Testing Regulation Checks Unemployment Insurance Benefits

You should know that employers are not legally required to test you for drugs. This is either at the time when you apply for a job or when you are working at the company. There are restrictions when or why employers can test you or if your boss has a reasonable suspicion.

This could be if they had a reasonable suspicion if there was a workplace incident. Also, if there were reliable witnesses of drug use or if you have agreed to be tested.

Testing Based on States

State testing

If you fail a drug test then the state decides whether you qualify for unemployment benefits. You would have to forgo your employment benefits if you do not pass a simple state-sponsored drug test.

In the State of Pennsylvania, if you fail or refuse a drug test then you will lose your benefits. State laws require you to get another job before you reapply. Wages are a minimum of six times greater than the weekly benefits. Unlike other states, you can regain benefits after a legally mandated waiting period.

In 2012, Congress passed a bill that enables states to drug-test any fired unemployment applicant. Mississippi passed a law to cut off benefits to those that fail drug tests.

If you are a resident of Connecticut, then your employer can test you if the safety of the job is important. For instance, if you are a forklift operator and if there is a reasonable suspicion that you are using drugs then there would be a test, a follow-up test and then you would be terminated. But, if you have a case then you can file a case in court or file a complaint with the state labor department.

Recent Ruling at Congress

Congress Ruling

The Trump Administration has been working hard to bring back and broaden the rule that was struck down last year in Congress which required drug testing for unemployment benefits.

With the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Republicans had repealed the Obama rule that limited the ability of states to drug test people that applied for unemployment pay.

While the Republicans felt that the 2016 rule was narrow and not far-sighted because it did not allow states to drug test people whose occupations needed it. This category referred to those employees that worked as airplane pilots, flight crews and air traffic controllers for commercial and public transit drivers and especially those that required carrying a firearm on their person.

While the Labor Department signaled its plans to issue broader rules, it will have to redefine the type of occupations that require a drug test. This would mean that there are a set of jobs that would have to ensure that one of the conditions of the requisites of the job involves drug testing.

The Labor Department warned that there would be a regulatory agenda where a semiannual roadmap for an administration’s rulemaking plans. After the repeal of 2016, states no longer have the authority to drug test unemployment compensation applicants.

Earlier, they could get suitable work based availability in occupations that conduct regular drug tests for unlawful use of controlled substances.

Regarding the issue of notice of proposed rulemaking, the Labour Department said, “It will identify the occupations that regularly conduct drug testing.” There are several liberal advocates are not happy with the prospect of a new rule that provides the administration’s move which could set an important precedent.

Here this allows you to issue regulations that provide action that is repealed under the CRA. Explaining this, George Wentworth, Senior Counsel of the National Employment Law Project explained that the 2016 rule focused on jobs that conduct random drug screenings and not those that test as a condition of pre-employment.

Currently, there are 13 states across the United States that have instituted specific regimes. So far, these experiences have proven expensive to administer year after year.

Despite this, the number of positive test results is extremely low. In 2016, out of nearly 250,000 applicants, there were only 369 that tested positive in four states and similarly zero tested positive for illegal drug use.

States that had positive results ranged from a low of 0.07 percent of all applicants to a high of 2.14 percent and rates far below the nearly 10 percent drug use rate which would fall under the general population.

All in all only three states have come forward and implemented drug tests across their jurisdictions. These states include Texas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin that have passed laws that allow employers and the state to allow drug testing for their unemployment insurance programs.

Drug Testing Policy – What You Need to Know

Drug Testing Policy

What are Drug Testing Policies?

There are several policies that start out by expressing the positive terms that are needed for safety at the workplace and adherence to the job and work quality. This includes improving safety and productivity and explaining violations, employee coverage, disciplinary measures, and rehabilitation.

Based on drug and alcohol policies, you should allow employees to have a written copy of these policies. Employers usually make signing these policies as a condition to be hired.

As part of the overall policy manual, all employees should sign separate forms for search and testing policies.

What if you refuse to sign the policy?

You cannot be fired if you refuse to sign an acknowledgment of the policy. But this should not be done until and unless you are warned. This should be done in writing or witnessed by others that refuse to sign.

An alternative approach that is used is by holding a mandatory staff meeting and employees are forced to sign an attendance register or face a disciplinary action for absence.

Though they might distribute the new drug-testing policy, discuss and distribute the policy in front of witnesses. You can choose to refuse to sign on the acknowledgment form. The only issue is that your employer can use this to their advantage and ensure that you are aware of the policy.

How is discipline or rehabilitation conducted?

Most companies notify employees that testing positive for drugs or alcohol will result in immediate termination. Some companies allow a chance for rehabilitation and a return to work under probationary conditions. But this type of second chance is not required under Texas or federal law.

A worker is allowed to return to work after a positive test result. This is generally under a “last chance” agreement. This provides for monthly random tests, a year’s probation, and immediate termination for any subsequent positive test result.

How Are Searches Done?

While some companies have incorporated these searches in their policies and part of the drug testing policies, there are several provisions that you should review and you should understand the sample drug-testing policy. This is based on the type of search and how the test is administered.

What are the Pre-employment Drug Testing?

Pre-employment drug testing is done by a few employers for some applicants. This is not regarded by the ADA as a medical examination.

This can be done at any point of the selection process and due to cost issues. Companies would restrict testing to final candidates only. On the issue of who pays for the test, most companies assume the burden. But, there is no specific law in Texas or Federal Law.

A Pre-employment drug test would discourage minority applicants. These are works that effectively result in less than minimum wages for an employee’s first paycheck.

It would be best to let doubtful cases be reviewed by employment law counsel prior to such testing. These tests would have to be kept confidential and all medical records should be maintained under the ADA.

Applying For Unemployment Claims

If you are filing your unemployment claims then you should know how to apply in your respective state by selecting your state from the Benefits by State option. Once you select your state, you can determine how to connect with Unemployment Office.

You will then have to learn how to submit your claim and understand your eligibility and what you stand to gain with the Benefits Calculator.

You can also connect with the File Unemployment Community and get your questions answered in this forum. Make the most of your unemployment claims and connect with your Unemployment to help you find your next job!

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  1. I applied for unemployment on 8-1 and was approved. I received my letter of eligibility and debit card about a week ago. I did not file my intitial bi weekly claim because I missed the deadline by 1 day (didn’t realize they would be closed on Saturday). When I logged on it said I would have to reopen a claim because mine had been closed. I filled out the online form to deactivate the claim. My question is this: will I have another waiting week? And will unemployment have to contact my employer all over again to verify my wages and go through the entire process all over again or will they just reopen the claim with a new date window to file?

  2. Lost my job in 10/2018 due to plant closure, collected vacation and severance pay. Opened a claim in 1/2019. Got an on the job training job through career link in 5/2019 worked one week and became very sick and was off for two weeks VA could not find anything wrong but gave me medication for the symptoms and an excuse to return to work, prior to returning got a call from my recruiter at career link telling me the position was filled so i did not return. Reopened my claim, a few weeks later got a letter informing me the employer had appealed and said i did not return, had a hearing and the employer did not show but i lost and got a 2500.00 over payment. Got a temp job through an agency but have only worked 4 days in two weeks. Reopened my claim and was told i need to earn 2604.00 from current employer before it can be opened, did i do something wrong? Still applying for work but am days away from losing everything, need income to pay bills. PLEASE HELP

    1. Rodney,

      Your eligibility to claim UI benefits depends on multiple factors including monetary eligibility. If you’ve been officially told about the shortage of earnings, there’s nothing much one can do. If you’re still confident of winning the appeal, please make a strong case.

      1. I live in KY but my base wages were from earnings in GA when I lived there. I’ve exhausted my benefits in KY. Am I able to now file through GA since my earnings through 10/18 came from there?

        1. Dee,

          As much as I am aware, Unemployment Insurance is a one time cycle. Please call the Unemployment Office in GA for more.

  3. The hours at work have been cut due to lack of business for every department.
    So all full-time positions are now part-time.
    How do I file for partial unemployment?
    The only options I see (in Texas) are for full unemployment.

    1. Eric,

      You should be able to claim partial UI benefits. Please consider applying online until full hours are restored.

    1. William,

      If everything goes well, it should not take more than 7-10 business days (waiting week). Please call the Claims Center for more.

  4. I was employed by a VA company for 5 years, my contract ended yesterday (07/31/19), however, I worked remotely for those 5 years and live in FL, which state do I apply to for my unemployment benefits?

    1. Oscar,

      Please check with your employer if they remitted UI taxes into the system. Contract workers are generally not eligible.

        1. Oscar,

          In that case, please go ahead and apply if your employer remitted UI taxes into the system.

    2. You apply in Virginia…however, I worked seasonally and they used a ‘quarter’ that was empty, so even though my employer paid in, I only got a 1/3 of what I should have received. Figured that out later :/ They will also question WHY you aren’t able and available to work IN Virginia. They froze my account for about a month.

  5. I worked 37 years with the same company in Texas. On July 2nd of 2018, I was let go due to workforce reduction. I signed up for benefits several months later and now have drawn my 26 weeks of benefit. Is there any program currently open in Texas or federally that will extend additional money while job seeking?

    1. Lonnie,

      The E.U.C(Emergency Unemployment Compensation) remains expired. There is no extension available. Please inquire further with the labor authorities in your state by calling them.

  6. I have been an employee of my company for 34 yrs. My position is being eliminated but I have been offered another position for less money. It is a much more physical job that I am not sure I can perform well. I am 75. If I try to fulfill the position and cannot do it, will I still be able to get benefits if I quit? They want me to try it for a couple of weeks to see if I am strong enough and if I can afford the cut in pay.

    1. Lynda,

      I suggest you call the Unemployment Office to find out about eligibility before making a decision on continuation.

      1. I recently lost my job..i was late for work and they took me off the schedule..never told me i was fired..didnt ask for uniforms back. Another cook was andd has been late for work and he didnt get taken off the schedule.can i still get unemployment?

        1. Kandie,

          Please note UI benefits are only offered to claimants who lose employment due to no fault of their own. You can call the Unemployment Office for clarification.

  7. Are there any training benefits or programs that will pay for an advanced degree, such as a PhD which is needed to become more employable?

    1. There are multiple training programs administered by the Labor Department in each state. For more info, please call visit the official website of the Unemployment Office.

  8. I’m about to exhaust my Unemployment benefits. I was laid off from my first job and
    found employment then I lost my job and became unemployed again. I applied for benefits and have have almost exhausted my benefits but have not found employment. Can I file for an extension?

    1. Deanna,

      The E.U.C(Emergency Unemployment Compensation) remains expired. There is no extension available. Please inquire further with the labor authorities in your state by calling them.

  9. After reading your article it’s still not clear to me about requirements surrounding moving to another state and completing/continuing to collect. I have 8 weeks eligibility left, I am moving from MA to FL. The end of your article says: “Since it’s all virtual (online), you may still consider the option of continuing your claims from the base state even if you move to a different one until completion. As a responsible claimant, it’s your duty to inform the base state about your movement to ensure there are no hassles in the near future.”

    So it sounds like even once I am in new state I am eligible to continue to collect from my base state. I can just continue to do my required weekly job search and reporting to and filing in my base state (I do it via phone call-in). No need to complicate things by doing some crazy state transfer of benefits. Benefits also done via direct bank deposit and no need to change anything. Do I even need to tell my base state I am now living in a new state? Why? Thank you.

    1. Paul,

      For the ease of understanding, each state has its specific rules and laws with regard to administering Unemployment Benefits. It might be an obligation for a claimant to inform about the movement. For clarification, please call the Unemployment Office and speak to a representative.

  10. I was recently fired from my work 25-June-2019/due to me not meeting their “standards/ expectations” i submitted my UE claim on 28-June and have not received any pay as of today, 19-July. The status is currently “adjudication in progress,” my question is, should i be worried this will be denied? I read the FAQ on the UE webpage and it said only a couple applications require the adjudication process. How long does this process usually take to get the final answer of whether I’m denied or approved? The website stated it susuallt takes ~25 days for the adjudication process, does this mean once that’s done then i still have to wait another 2-6 weeks for final processing after? THANK YOU SOO MUCH to whomever is able to provide me with some answers/ input.

    Sincerely,
    Talia
    ** this is my first time ever being fired or having to file for unemployment so i really have nooooo idea what is standard or normal or whatever. I feel like an idiot with my simple questions but it would bring me so much relief having them answered, truly

    1. Talia,

      I can understand your reason for the anxiety. Adjudication is a fact-finding process where both the claimant and the employer will get an opportunity to present their case. During this process, make sure to produce supporting documents that amplify your stance. For all you know, the adjudication can be a lengthy process.

      Best Wishes!

  11. I was permanently severanced from my job due to a Co. Reorg & received my last severance pay last week. I called UE & was told that I should now do my application online since I will no longer be getting funds & still without a job & that this coming Sunday regardless of knowing if I will or will not get benefits yet that I should still file a weekly claim in case of UE back pay.
    So my question is, do I still have to report 4 jobs applied to within this week, even if I do not know if I will be approved/denied for benefits until possibly next week anyway?

    1. Lynda,

      You should continue to report the job applications as long as you’ve been asked to do so. There will be a “Waiting Period” and the first payment will take about 7-10 days after which they’ll flow much quicker. Please call the Claims Center for clarification.

  12. I tried to transfer from one state to another. When I left Montana I was told there would be no problem transferring. When I arrived in North Carolina I had trouble reaching the area manager by phone. When he finally called me back he said to meet him for lunch to discuss when and where I would be working. He did not show up for lunch. Then he never returned any of my calls. I went PA to visit a friend a few weeks later and tried there. I met with the hiring manager and was told there should not be a problem doing the transfer since I was still in the system. I called the store a few times and they said it was still pending. Then I was terminated without even a phone call. Am I eligible for unemployment and if so do I file in Montana or North Carolina. I still have a Montana drivers license but I am living in NC.

    1. Stacey,

      As long as you were unemployed involuntarily, you should be able to claim UI benefits. Please consider applying.

  13. I have worked for 32+ years and recently have become unable to work due to health reasons, so I have had to resign from my job. I have contacted SS and will be able to apply for disability but it will take awhile to process. Can I apply for unemployment benefits? I live in WV.

    1. Sandra,

      UI benefits are only extended to claimants who lose their employment due to involuntary reasons. Please reach out to the Unemployment Office for more.

  14. I had to quit my job at Walmart in Fairmont West Virginia and moved back to my home state ky, I’ve got a son with drug problems and 3 older sisters that are not doing so well in health cause of their age. I didn’t understand about the transfer part they had at Walmart that I could put a date when I could start back because of my car problems I thought when I left I had to go in like in s few days, I’ve applied here at Walmart in Winchester ky 40391 two times already plus dollar store, speedway, truck stop, bp, a few other places it’s been going on 7 months without a job I live with my son and its getting harder on him paying rent and utilities and food, not to mention our personal hygiene stuff I really need help I have no income coming in to help him and his wife out I get foodstamps and Medicaid I was praying I could qualify for unemployment PLEASE HELP!!!

    1. Vicky,

      I can understand your situation. Unfortunately, UI benefits are only extended to claimants who lose employment due to involuntary reasons. Please call the Unemployment Office for further clarification.

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