Department of Labor Announces Final Rule for Unemployment Insurance Drug Testing

As of early October, the U.S. Department of Labor issued its final rule for drug testing potential employees. The new rule will supposedly provide greater flexibility and broader coverage than the previous rule.

On October 3, 2019, the Department of Labor published a final rule on unemployment drug testing. The rule will give greater flexibility to states as they identify the occupations for which they will conduct drug testing in the unemployment insurance (UI) program.

“The flexibility offered in the new rule respects state differences with regard to employment drug testing across our country,” said Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training John Pallasch. “This rule lays out a standard that states can individually meet under the facts of their specific economies and practices.”

The rule’s reported flexibility allows states to make decisions based on their specific situations. For example, the rule would permit (not require) states to test unemployment compensation (UC) applicants for whom suitable work is only available in an occupation where drug testing is regularly conducted.

The rule also allows states to identify additional occupations where employers conduct drug testing as a standard eligibility requirement for obtaining or maintaining employment in the identified occupation in that state. States are able to adjust and re-assess which occupations are included in this consideration, even though the final rule also maintains that any occupation listed in the rescinded 2016 final rule is among those that are drug tested.

Other laws and acts affect the consideration of drug testing for unemployed individuals, though. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 amended the Social Security Act to allow states to conduct drug testing for a specific group of UC applicants: those for whom work is only available in an occupation that regularly conducts drug testing. This new rule fulfills the Department’s requirement to identify occupations that regularly conduct drug testing.

This new rule follows a 2017 resolution of disapproval, passed by Congress and signed by the President, which revoked a previous rule aimed at issuing a one-size-fits-all standard on states identifying occupations for regular drug testing.

For more information, read the Employment & Training Administration’s news release on the topic.

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