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The Practical Employer

Should We Require Drug Testing as a Condition for Unemployment Benefits?

If a proposed law sought to drug test every applicant for unemployment benefits, I'd be opposed to it as overreaching and an invasion of privacy.

This is the question posed by Ohio House Bill 704.

Let’s be clear. This law, if enacted, would not require drug testing as a condition for all applicants for unemployment benefits. Only those:

  1. for whom there exists reasonable cause to suspect the unlawful use of a controlled substance; and
  2. whose most recent employer fired because of the unlawful use of a controlled substance.
In other words, an employee fired for using illegal drugs would have to pass a drug test to qualify for unemployment benefits.
While this law scores high marks on the common-sense meter, is it really necessary?
If an employer fires someone for the illegal use of a controlled substance, one would hope (and assume) the employer has a failed drug test to support the termination. In that case, I’d be very interested to see the statistics on the number of allowed unemployment claims for individuals fired after failing a drug test.
If this law sought to drug test every applicant for unemployment benefits, I’d be opposed to it as overreaching and an invasion of privacy. As it stands, however, I’m neutral. The law makes sense, but I don’t think it serves any interest that isn’t otherwise being met.
What do you think? Should employees be drug tested as a prerequisite to receiving unemployment benefits? What if it’s limited to employees fired for using illegal drugs? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Hyman’s blog at Workforce.com/PracticalEmployer.
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