Gov. Walker Announces Plan To Drug Test Unemployment Applicants

Douglas J. Carroll, Jr. Employee Rights News, Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Earlier this week Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced a “workforce readiness plan” which will be included in the budget proposal scheduled to be unveiled on February 3, 2015.  Apparently, the plan will include the requirement that applicants for unemployment insurance benefits undergo drug testing to be entitled to benefits.  There seems to be some indication that not all applicants for unemployment will be required to undergo drug testing and that it may be limited to certain occupations.

As a Wisconsin employment attorney, this change to the unemployment insurance laws will have a great impact on my practice and the rights of employees in Wisconsin.  I will update this post as more information becomes available.

Around this time last year, changes to Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance law went into effect that, in part, made it easier for employer’s to contest a discharged employee’s entitlement to unemployment insurance benefits.  Arguably the standard of what constitutes “misconduct” was expanded when the definition was codified.  Additionally, while the old law only prevented employees who were discharged for misconduct from being entitled to unemployment benefits, the new law created the lesser standard of “substantial fault.”  Employees terminated for substantial fault are also not entitled to receive unemployment insurance benefits.

While last year’s changes were clearly designed at saving employers money by making more workers ineligible for unemployment benefits, I question whether this has actually happened.  As a Wisconsin employment attorney fighting for employee rights in Milwaukee, Waukesha and throughout the entire State of Wisconsin, I received many more potential clients seeking to appeal denials of unemployment benefits in the past year than I have in other years.  I always conduct a detailed analysis of all potential claims an employee might have against an employer.  On many occasions I determined that potential clients seeking representation for unemployment insurance appeal hearings also had other, more valuable, viable claims against their former employers.  Many of these clients indicated that they would not have contacted my firm if their application for unemployment insurance benefits had been approved.  To that end, although it was obviously an unintended consequence of the changes to the law, last year’s changes can certainly be seen as furthering employee rights in Wisconsin. d