No compensation for drug-dismissed workers
May 12, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY -- Missouri’s unemployment system with the passage of House Bill 1456 establishes “zero tolerance” drug-free workplace policies as the standard employers can use to protect workers from the dangers of drug and alcohol in the workplace. Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) has fought for this change for several years, and lawmakers gave final approval in the last hour of the 2006 legislative session.

“This bill is about fairness in the workplace,” said Gary Marble, president of Associated Industries. “Missouri’s businesses will become safer as a result of the General Assembly’s actions.”

Under the provisions of HB 1456, an employee who is dismissed from a company as a result of failing a drug test, will be unable draw unemployment benefits.

“This bill focuses unemployment benefits on those workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own,” said Jim Kistler, executive vice president of Associated Industries.

Other reform measures included in HB 1456 sponsored by Rep. Brad Roark (R-Springfield) and Sen. Lunann Ridgeway (R-Smithville):

During a lengthy debate on Tuesday, the Senate removed language that would have required so-called “whistle-blowers” suing for wrongful termination to show that their companies violated the law. The current standard is based upon a reasonable belief that illegal activity had occurred. Attempts by House members to restore the language during conference committee were unsuccessful.

Two high-profile court cases – one involving Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. and the other Bass Pro Shops – have focused attention on the vast disparity between lost wages and punitive awards.

“A compromise was necessary on this bill because it was imperative for the future of Missouri businesses that unemployment reform legislation pass this session,” said Marble. “During the legislative interim, we will work with our friends in the House and Senate to develop another bill that builds on the language relating to the at-will employment doctrine removed from HB 1456.”

Having been passed by the Legislature, HB 1456 will be sent to the governor to sign into law.

Associated Industries of Missouri is a business and industry trade association serving as the voice of Missouri business for more than 1,200 Missouri employers. AIM represents its membership before the Missouri legislature, state regulatory agencies, the courts and the public.

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