On Wednesday, June 14, 2006, Governor Matt Blunt signed into law several changes to Missouri’s unemployment compensation statutes, which will go into effect on October 1, 2006.  Under the new law, if an employee has committed misconduct with respect to alcohol or controlled substances, test results are admissible as long as the employer’s policy clearly states that employees may be subject t (1) random testing; (2) preemployment testing; (3) testing based upon reasonable suspicion; or (4) post-accident testing.  The law also provides that employers may require a preemployment test as a condition of employment. 

Further, an employee’s discharge may be deemed misconduct if it occurs as a result of the employee’s failure to take a drug test, or as a result of the employee’s attempt to invalidate, adulterate or impede test results or an admission that the results would be positive if given a test.  See Mo. Rev. Stat. 288.045(4)-(5).  The law also contains a provision stating that absenteeism or tardiness constitutes a rebuttable presumption of misconduct where the discharge was the result of the employer’s attendance policy and the employee was aware of the policy before being absent or tardy.  See Section 288.046(3).

The law also addresses veterans’ rights in the context of unemployment compensation.  The law extends unemployment compensation for a maximum weekly benefit of 26 weeks to a “war on terror veteran,” which is defined as: (1) a member of the National Guard or Armed Forces Reserves; (2) who was deployed after September 11, 2001; (3) who was employed either full-time or part-time prior to deployment; and (4) who was unemployed either during deployment or within 30 days after the completion of his or her deployment.  See Section 288.042 (1).  If a veteran is not offered the same wages, benefits, and work schedule upon return, the veteran will not be considered to have voluntarily quit his or her employment.  Moreover, employers that take adverse employment actions due to a veteran’s absence while deployed may be subject to an administrative penalty of $25,000.

Should you have any questions about this new law and its implications, please contact the Ogletree Deakins attorney with whom you normally work or the Client Services Department at 866-287-2576 or via e-mail at clientservices@ogletreedeakins.com

Note: This article was published in the June 16, 2006 issue of the Missouri eAuthority.

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