Disqualification for Florida Unemployment Benefits When Discharged

The Florida Statutes provide that individuals will be disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation under certain circumstances.

Specifically, providing:
If an individual is discharged from employment for drug use as evidenced by a positive, confirmed drug test as provided in paragraph (1)(d), or is rejected for offered employment because of a positive, confirmed drug test as provided in paragraph (2)(c), test results and chain of custody documentation provided to the employer by a licensed and approved drug-testing laboratory will be self-authenticating and admissible in unemployment compensation hearings, and such evidence will create a rebuttable presumption that the individual used, or was using, controlled substances, subject to the following conditions:

(a). To qualify for the presumption described in this subsection, an employer must have implemented a drug-free workplace program under §§ 440.101 and 440.102 and must submit proof that the employer has qualified for the insurance discounts provided under § 627.0915, as certified by the insurance carrier or self-insurance unit. In lieu thereof, an employer who does not fit the definition of 'employer' in § 440.102 may qualify for the presumption provided that the employer is in compliance with equivalent or more stringent drug-testing standards established by federal law or regulation. (emphasis provided)

(b). Only laboratories licensed and approved as provided in § 440.102(9), or as provided by equivalent or more stringent licensing requirements established by federal law or regulation may perform such tests.

Courts have found that an employer failed to establish a chain of custody with respect to the employee's specimens and because the employer, which failed to establish certification required by Florida Statute §§ 443.101(11) and 627.0915 was not entitled to the presumption contained in § 443.101(11). The employer did not produce a certificate or other evidence of the company qualifying for insurance discounts and could not verify the testing lab's qualifications.

Courts have noted that the employer has the burden of proving that the act complained of constitute "misconduct" sufficient to disqualify the employee from receiving benefits and that the unemployment compensation statute is to be liberally construed in favor of the employee where the employee is disqualified from receiving those benefits. In such cases, Courts held that the former employee was not guilty of misconduct and was entitled to unemployment compensation benefits.

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