Tuxis Ohr’s Fuel Inc. v. Administrator, Unemployment Compensation Act, No. 18791 (July 30, 2013): The Connecticut Supreme Court recently addressed whether an employee who lost his commercial driver’s license for driving under the influence of alcohol while off duty and, as a result, was discharged from a job for which that license was required, was entitled to unemployment compensation. In a result that may come as a surprise to most employers, the court found that the employee was entitled to unemployment benefits.
The court rejected the employer’s argument that Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-236(a)(14) precluded the former employee from collecting unemployment compensation. The statute, which disallows unemployment benefits to a discharged employee who “has been disqualified under state or federal law from performing the work for which he was hired as a result of a drug or alcohol testing program mandated by and conducted in accordance with such law” did not apply, according to the court. Instead, the court agreed with the employee and found that the “testing program” contemplated by § 31-236(a)(14) included only employment-based drug and alcohol testing programs required by law, not police-administered testing related to off-duty incidents.
The court’s decision in this case is an example of judicial interpretation of a “remedial act” with the goal of construing it “in favor of its beneficiaries.” The court interpreted the Connecticut Unemployment Compensation Act in a manner most beneficial to the employee, resulting in a disappointing, if not perplexing, outcome for employers.