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Passed A Year Ago, Texas Law Requiring Drug Tests for Jobless Benefits Still not in Place

More than a year ago, the Texas Legislature passed, and Gov. Perry signed, a bill requiring people who are in certain professions which routinely require drug testing, like nursing and truck driving, to undergo drug tests to receive unemployment benefits.

  But that law has not been enforced, and state officials say the feds are to blame.

  "We won't be in a position to implement it in the form of guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor," said Mark Lavergne of the Texas Workforce Commission.  "So the law has not begun to impact new unemployment claims, at least not yet."

  Lavergne says the feds have to certify specifically what job titles and job classifications are covered by the drug testing requirement, something they have so far failed to do.

  And that failure bothers Bill Hammond, who is the President of the Texas Association of Business.

  "I think its unconscionable on the part of the Department of Labor that they haven't put out a rule," Hammond said.

  Supporters say the entire concept of unemployment compensation is a 'contract' between the worker, the employer, and the state to make sure that workers have 'bridge' income to tide them over between jobs.  They say if the worker is abusing drugs while collecting unemployment benefits, that worker is not eligible to take a new job because the worker would be unable to pass the drug test, thus breaking the 'contract.'

  But Rick Levy of the Texas AFL-CIO points out that if you are fired from your job for taking illegal drugs you are not eligible to collect jobless benefits.  He says the very fact that a person is collecting unemployment benefits indicates they were recently productively employed and plan to be so again.

  "There is no connection between somebody being unemployed and receiving benefits and using drugs," he said.

  The U.S. Department of Labor has given no indication of when, or if, it will allow the state to begin the drug testing program.

 

 

 

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