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Can a drug test keep someone from getting workers’ compensation?

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2023 | Workers' Compensation

Work injuries in New Jersey range from cuts and burns suffered in the kitchen to spinal cord injuries caused by a fall or a car crash. Employees in most professions, including part-time workers, typically have the protection of workers’ compensation to assist them if they get hurt on the job.

New Jersey workers injured while engaging in employment-related activities can potentially receive healthcare coverage that will pay for their treatment without passing expenses on to them the way that health insurance does. If they must take a leave of absence from work or can no longer return to their job because of their injuries, workers’ compensation could help cover their cost-of-living expenses by providing disability benefits.

One of the first steps in many workers’ compensation claims involves an employer-required drug test. Workers who fail a drug or alcohol test may or may not lose their right to workers’ compensation benefits.

A failed test will likely complicate a claim

The good news for a worker who fails a drug or alcohol test after a work injury is that simply failing the test does not automatically mean they are ineligible for any coverage whatsoever. However, they can anticipate that their employer may use their test results as a means to defend against their claim. Employers, particularly those maintaining a drug-free workplace, will typically require drug and alcohol testing after an incident on the job even though the law does not inherently mandate such testing. The results of those tests can help them defend against workers’ compensation claims.

Typically, it will be necessary to show not just that the worker had drugs or alcohol in their system at the time of the incident but also that their impairment is probably what caused their injuries. Someone under the influence of alcohol or narcotic pain relievers might have a compromised sense of balance, which could be an explanation for why they fell on the job.

However, someone’s impairment may have very little or nothing to do with their injuries. For example, perhaps the injury was the result of an assault on the job. Impairment would likely not play a role in causing that incident. Workers often give up on their claims before they even begin if they believe that a failed drug or alcohol test will keep them from getting benefits.

Understanding that there is a gray area when applying for workers’ compensation benefits in the wake of a positive drug test may help people obtain the coverage they deserve to help reduce the impact of a work injury.