Texas to Begin Drug Testing Applicants for Unemployment

Texas Governor Rick Perry has approved legislation that will require applicants for unemployment insurance to face state-administered drug tests as a condition of receiving benefits.  Federal law does not yet allow states to require drug tests as a condition of receiving unemployment insurance, but Congress said last year that states could eventually test people whose occupations regularly conduct drug testing. The new law left it up to the U.S. Department of Labor to determine which occupations do so, but the department has been slow to issue guidance.

Unlike drug testing schemes sought by Republicans in some states, the one in Texas is designed to comply with the new law. The legislation on Rick Perry's desk says a person should be tested only if he or she works "in an occupation designated by United States Department of Labor regulation as an occupation that regularly conducts preemployment drug testing." The U.S. Labor Department initially said it would come up with regulations in May, but it hasn't done so yet.

A covered individual who files an initial claim for unemployment benefits will have to submit to and pass a written drug screening assessment to determine the reasonable likelihood that an individual is using a substance regulated by the Texas Controlled Substances Act.  If the TWC makes such a finding, the claimant will have to submit to and pass a state-administered drug test to get benefits. Appeals and exceptions are specified in the statute, including an exception for participation in a drug treatment program.