Changes to Unemployment Laws Crack Down On Drug Users

March 27, 2007 - Posted at 6:12 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO-The lines at the Unemployment Office could be shortening in the near future.

"They must come in and show they are drug free before they are entitled to any unemployment benefits."

That's because of a Bill that's about to become State law.

House Bill 2374 was filed by Representative J.R. Rogers of Walnut Ridge.

It quickly passed in both the House and Senate and is now on its way to the Governor.

"If you're not going to abide by the law and do what's right then I don't think you ought to draw unemployment."

In Rogers' bill the requirements for drawing unemployment would get much more strict.

Current State law already says if you are fired from your employer due to drugs you must work an additional 10 weeks at a new employer before the State will consider you for unemployment benefits, but that law is now changing to say you must also pass a mandatory Department of Labor drug test before they will consider you at all.

"If you can't pass the drug test, you can't draw unemployment. That would be a deterrent for them to not take drugs or start taking drugs."

A problem the Department of Employment Security sees often.

"It does happen fairly often that people are discharged because of drug use."

And because of that Representative Rogers says he hopes to save the whole state some money, by eliminating benefits to those abusing the system.

"You know, it's just not fair to the taxpayers or the workers and employers who are abiding by the law and doing what's right, to be paying for these people who are not available for employment because they are on drugs. It's just not fair."Those who refuse the drug test will be disqualified from unemployment benefits until they have successfully completed a Department of Labor drug test, no matter their employment status.

The Bill also relieves employers of having to pay for unemployment benefits if an employee is discharged for drug use.

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