Drug Testing and Positive Results after a Work Injury
Individuals injured in the workplace have a right to claim worker’s compensation benefits to help them with things such as medical bills and loss of wages or future income. Employers are required to carry insurance to cover workers’ compensation to protect both the employer and their workers in case of an accident that occurs on the job. This is technically a no-fault system that allows workers to receive needed benefits after an injury or illness sustained on the job without having to prove negligence.
Unfortunately, though it is considered a no-fault system, there are some cases when a workers’ compensation claim may get denied. One such case involves workplace drug testing. Though it may seem unfair or discriminatory for an employer to conduct a drug screening following a workplace injury, it is typically allowed and considered part of the employer’s effort and responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.
Rules on Drug Testing in the Workplace
Though the Occupational Safety and Health Commission (OSHA) prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who have reported a workplace injury or illness, they are generally of the opinion that post-incident drug testing is allowed. According to these OSHA guidelines, examples of permissible workplace drug testing include:
- Drug testing that is unrelated to the reporting of a workplace injury or illness
- Drug testing under state workers’ comp law
- Random drug testing
- Drug testing to determine the cause of a workplace incident that did or could have placed other workers in danger
- Drug testing under federal law
The reason for the allowance of post-incident drug testing in the workplace is due to OSHA’s belief that employers who consistently enforce policies, such as post-incident drug testing, are doing so to ensure a culture of safety by promoting a safe and healthy working environment.
However, their guidelines do further state that post-incident drug testing can violate the ruling if the employer requests the testing to intentionally penalize a worker for reporting an injury or illness. Unfortunately, proving that an employer did so to punish an employee rather than to promote a safe environment is tricky. In these cases, it is often extremely beneficial to work with a workers’ comp attorney.
Do I Have To Take a Drug Test Following a Work-Related Injury?
Due to company policies backed by OSHA guidelines, employers have a right to ask an employee to take a drug test following a work-related injury or illness. The employer, of course, must do so for the right reasons and not with the intention of punishing the employee. If the reasoning is valid, however, they are allowed to request a drug screening.
As an employee, you do have rights as well. You can refuse to take the drug test if you so desire, but doing so will likely result in an outright denial of your workers’ compensation claim. Refusing a drug test implies that you have something to hide, which does not help your case. Though the state of Mississippi does not require post-incident drug testing, and employers cannot have a set post-incident drug testing policy, they are allowed to test following an incident at their discretion.
Will a Positive Drug Test Result Affect My Workers’ Compensation Claim?
When it comes to workers’ comp cases, telling the truth is always in your best interest. Even if you know you will fail a drug test, complying with the request and showing that you are not trying to hide anything will help prove to the court that you are an honest individual. A positive drug test result is not the end of the road and does not mean your benefits will be denied.
If your drug use did not cause the incident or affect it in any way, and you can prove that other factors led to the injury, then you will likely still receive benefits. However, that does not mean that you will get off completely free. If your state or employer has a strict no-drug use policy, then they can still fire you if the results come back positive. If it is concluded that the drugs were not the cause of the incident, however, your employer will still have to pay you your workers’ comp benefits, even if they fire you.
Connect with an Experienced Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If an employer or insurance company tries to deny your claim, having an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side is beneficial to winning your case. There are a number of reasons a claim may get denied, but if a positive drug test is the reason, it can be even more difficult to argue in your defense.
If you failed a drug test and are trying to claim worker’s compensation benefits, the team at Lunsford, Baskin, and Priebe, PLLC can help. Our attorneys have years of experience dealing with workers’ comp cases and are determined to help injured workers get the benefits that they need and deserve
For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Mississippi, contact Lunsford, Baskin, and Priebe, PLLC. After-hours visits are available.