When you get injured in a job-related accident, workers’ compensation is supposed to cover your medical bills and pay you for any days you take off work to recover. Whether you dislocate your shoulder unloading boxes or get sick from asbestos exposure, it’s important to report your injury as soon as it happens to collect these benefits. However, just because an injury happens at work doesn’t mean you’re automatically entitled to workers’ compensation. There are many reasons your claim might be denied – including a positive drug test.
DRUG TESTING AFTER A WORKPLACE ACCIDENT
Privacy laws in California protect employees from random drug testing. In order to require a drug test, an employer must have a valid reason – such as a workplace injury. While an injured employee may test positive for certain drugs, California Labor Code Section 5705 mandates that the employer must prove two things in order for the employee to be denied workers’ comp benefits:
- The employee was, in fact, intoxicated at the time of the injury. This can be shown through drug tests, a breathalyzer test, and witness testimony.
- The intoxication was the proximate cause of the injury. If an employee is intoxicated at work and is injured because a tool falls from a scaffolding and hits his head, the accident would have happened despite any level of impairment. On the other hand, if a worker slips and falls, the employer could argue that the intoxication might have caused the injury.
In other words, just because an employee returns a positive drug test does not mean he or she is ineligible for workers’ compensation. Once all of the facts are presented, it’s up to the judge to determine whether an intoxication defense will affect an injured worker’s eligibility for benefits.
RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA USE IN CALIFORNIA
As of January 1st, Californians have been able to legally purchase recreational marijuana and use it in their homes and other private spaces. It’s important to note, though, that this new law hasn’t changed an employer’s rights to request a drug test following a work-related injury. Marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal law.
ARE YOU FACING A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION DRUG TEST?
Not every employer will require a drug test following a workplace accident. He or she may not want to pay for testing, or a lab might not be readily available. A worker who is ordered to take a drug test should know that even a positive test doesn’t always rule out the possibility of receiving workers’ comp.
In the case of marijuana, a positive test doesn’t necessarily show that you were intoxicated while at work – only that you’ve used marijuana in the past few weeks or months. For this reason, it can be difficult for an employer to prevail in his or her intoxication defense. Nevertheless, if you are concerned about how drug testing will impact your workers’ compensation claim, your best option is to contact an attorney.
HELPING INJURED EMPLOYEES IN SAN DIEGO NAVIGATE THE WORKERS’ COMP SYSTEM
At The Law Office of Matthew Russell, we have decades of experience helping injured employees navigate the workers’ compensation system. Give us a call today to schedule your free consultation. We’ll help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions for your claim. Contact us at (619) 544-1506.