Trump signs legislation to nullify drug testing rule

Regulation restricted use of drug screening for unemployment compensation benefits

Posted April 4, 2017

President Donald J. Trump signed legislation March 31 to halt a U.S. Department of Labor rule that restricts drug testing of applicants for state Unemployment Compensation (UC) programs.

The administration says the 2016 rule, drawn up by the department’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) based on a 2012 law, contradicts clear congressional intent by narrowly limiting the circumstances under which drug testing may be carried out, and restricts a state’s ability to conduct a drug testing program under the act.

The 2012 law amended the Social Security Act to add a new subsection permitting states to drug test unemployment compensation applicants as a condition of eligibility and deny unemployment benefits for failing the test, under two specific circumstances:

  • If they were terminated from employment with their most recent employer because of the unlawful use of a controlled substance.
  • If the only available suitable work for an individual was in an occupation that regularly conducted drug testing.

The law required the department to define such “occupations” in regulation. ETA issued a final rule to establish occupations that regularly conduct drug testing in the Federal Register on August 1, 2016; it became effective on September 30, 2016.

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