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Proposed budget to require drug testing of select unemployment claimants

March 30, 2015

The Wisconsin Assembly introduced the 2015 Wisconsin Budget, Assembly Bill 21, on February 3, 2015, and held public hearings on the bill over the last two weeks.  If passed without further amendment, the budget provisions could significantly impact unemployment and workers compensation benefits in Wisconsin.

Among other changes, the budget requires the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to establish a program requiring certain unemployment claimants who apply for regular benefits to submit to drug testing.  By way of background, until 2012 federal law prohibited states from requiring claimants to submit to drug tests.  In 2012, Congress changed the law and provided that individuals in certain occupations could be required to submit to drug tests.  The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) was charged with issuing regulations addressing which occupations would be affected.  To date, the DOL has not issued final regulations.  Texas passed an employment benefits drug testing law in 2013; however, it has not been implemented.

Under Wisconsin’s proposed budget, claimants subject to testing could face the following consequences:  if the claimant refuses to submit to a test, the claimant will be disqualified for benefits for at least 52 weeks; and a positive test result will result in a claimant’s disqualification for at least 52 weeks unless the claimant enrolls in, and remains in compliance with, a state-sponsored substance abuse treatment program, and undergoes a state-sponsored skills assessment.  However, even if passed, these changes will not be implemented until the DOL issues final regulations that identify who may be required to submit to testing.  Stay tuned.

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