Administration Nullifies Drug Testing for Persons Seeking Unemployment Benefits

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

The president’s action halts a 2016 rule drawn up by the department’s Employment and Training Administration, based on a 2012 law. 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. ETA issued a final rule to establish occupations that regularly conduct drug testing in the Federal Register on Aug. 1, 2016; it became effective on Sept. 30, 2016.