The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) has recently been publicizing a law which would allow unemployment insurance to be revoked for those who fail or refuse to take a drug test while looking for work. The GDOL is asking employers to anonymously report such instances. Before benefits are revoked, however, the GDOL is required to conduct an investigation of the failed drug test.
If a person is terminated for failing a drug test, they are ineligible for unemployment insurance. The U.S. Department of Labor has decided that, because a large portion of jobs require drug testing, the Georgia law is permissible in that the unemployed are not making themselves available for work. In contrast, Federal Law does not currently permit states to institute drug testing as a precondition for receiving unemployment insurance.
The unemployed are more likely to use drugs, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Among the unemployed, 17.5% used illicit drugs, compared to 11.2% for part time and 8.4% of full time employees. Of the 20.2 million drug users in the U.S., 2.6 million (12.87%) were unemployed.
To date, no one has been reported to the GDOL and lost unemployment from this. The GDOL believes that as businesses become more aware of this law, they will be incentivized to report instances. Businesses have to pay for unemployment insurance, giving them a financial incentive to discourage its use unless absolutely necessary.
At the same time, employees pay for unemployment insurance as well. It is their money, and if the reason for their unemployment is valid, then they are entitled to the money. However, the design of unemployment insurance is not as a form of retirement saving, but a way to fill the gap between jobs. In that sense, the person needs to be actively seeking work in order to be eligible. The question is how much an unemployed person can limit their job search before violating this rule? Would refusing jobs below a certain pay level qualify? Such a practice could limit the amount of available jobs the same as limiting jobs to ones that don’t drug test.
National Survey on Drug Use and Health: http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/NSDUH/2k10NSDUH/2k10Results.htm
Georgia Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Requirements: http://www.dol.state.ga.us/pdf/rules/300_2_7.pdf