One of the key benefits of workers’ compensation is that the system provides benefits and medical care for injured workers no matter who was at fault. That streamlines the process, means more workers receive the help they need to recover after a work injury and at the same time limits employer liability for on-the-job injuries. Generally, the system offers a win-win situation for workers and the companies that employ them.
However, there are some exceptions to the “regardless of fault” provision. Many Ohio workers know that certain types of injuries that don’t strictly occur in the course of employment are excluded—injuries sustained in a fight on the employer’s premises, for example, or during horseplay. However, many are not aware of the impact drug use may have on workers’ compensation benefits.
Drug Use Increases Dangers in the Workplace
Unsurprisingly, workers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol increase the risk of injury in the workplace. One nationwide study concluded that 16% of patients treated in emergency rooms for work-related injuries had alcohol in their systems. And, the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information says substance abuse costs U.S. employers $100 billion each year in injuries, lost productivity, absenteeism, theft, and other losses.
Therefore, both employers and government agencies have a powerful incentive to reduce drug use on the job.
Workers’ Compensation Drug Testing Initiative
To make workplaces safer across the state and reduce the number of work injuries and workers’ compensation claims, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) encourages employers to maintain drug-free workplaces. One element of this initiative involves drug testing employees after an accident.
Of course, many employers have their own drug testing policies, so even those companies not participating in the BWC program may opt to drug test employees.
Does Drug Use Disqualify an Injured Worker from Workers’ Compensation?
In some cases, a positive drug test will result in the denial of workers’ compensation benefits. However, a worker can only be disqualified from receiving benefits for this reason if the drug tests establish that he or she was under the influence at the time of the accident and that the impairment caused the injury. Note that “caused the injury” is a higher standard than “contributed to the injury.” If the intoxication may have played a role in the injury but was not the sole cause, the injured worker may still be entitled to benefits.
Unfair Drug Testing Practices
However, employers don’t always use drug testing fairly. For example, an employer may attempt to use a drug test administered long after the accident occurred to disqualify the worker from benefits. Or, the employer may in good faith rely on a testing method that is unreliable or was not properly administered.
You May Still be Eligible for Workers Comp Benefits
If you’ve been drug tested in connection with a work injury and the test showed the presence of alcohol, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, or other drugs that may cause impairment, you may still be eligible for benefits.
Contact an experienced local Cleveland workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and how you can fight for the benefits you deserve
The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation