President Trump Nullifies Drug Testing Rule for Unemployment Benefits

On March 31, President Trump signed legislation to nullify a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rule that narrowly limited the circumstances under which drug testing may be carried out by states in administering their unemployment insurance systems.drug test

The president’s action halts a 2016 rule drawn up by the department’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), based on a 2012 law. According to the DOL, the rule “contradicted clear congressional intent” by narrowly limiting the circumstances under which drug testing may be carried out and “constrained a state’s ability to conduct a drug testing program under the act.”

“The Department of Labor supports the president’s nullification and looks forward to examining additional flexibilities for states relative to the drug testing of persons seeking unemployment benefits,” said Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Ed Hugler, quoted in a press release.

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 jobless 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. The 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.