Can an employer drug test you after a work related injury?

by Steve Fields | June 1st, 2017

Workers Comp drug testing laws govern how an employer can gather evidence for an intoxication defense against paying your claim for benefits. However, drug testing and drug defenses do not come into play on a workers’ compensation claim as often as you might think.

Even if an employee does undergo drug testing and it is found that alcohol or drug intoxication played a role in the work injury, it still might not be enough to rule out the employee’s benefits under the law. The distinction lies in whether the intoxication is the cause of the injury or whether it is merely a contributory cause.

Minnesota Workers Compensation Drug Testing Laws

Minnesota Workers Comp Laws regulate how and when employers can test employees for drug use. As far as workers’ compensation claims, the statute allows for employers to test any employee who sustains a personal injury on the job. Bottom line: If you get hurt at work, it is within the employer’s legal right to test you for drug and alcohol intoxication following a work-related injury.

The law states that if intoxication by drugs or alcohol is the proximate cause of a work injury, the employer is not liable to pay workers’ compensation benefits. But the burden of proof is on the employer. The employer must prove two things: One, that the injured employee was, in fact, intoxicated (i.e. through a positive drug test, high BAC/BAL, or witness testimony), and two, that the intoxication was the proximate cause of the injury. Both of these issues are questions of fact for the judge to determine whether an intoxication defense will prevent an employee from receiving benefits.

Consider these two scenarios:

In the first, a roofer falls off a roof and injures his back. Blood tests at the hospital return positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The workers’ compensation judge may find the intoxication was a “proximate” cause of the injury and deny benefits.

In the second scenario, the roofer falls off the roof and again the drug tests come back positive, but this time it was a careless crane operator that accidentally knocked him off the roof. In this case, the judge is more likely to find the intoxication was not the cause of the injury and award benefits to the employee.

This is one area of workers’ compensation law that really strives to protect injured employees against the effects of work-related injuries. A positive drug test does not automatically rule out your chances of benefits. Essentially, employers have to show that the intoxication was the main cause of the injury, which can be difficult when you look at all of the circumstances of an injury.

Keep in mind, an employer might not request Workers Comp drug testing for several reasons; they may not want to pay for the testing, an approved testing laboratory may not be readily available, or the employer simply knows that the employee is not intoxicated. Since people are a lot less likely to be intoxicated during working hours than non-working hours, the chances of intoxication being the cause of a work-related injury are relatively low.

The best thing to do when faced with Workers Comp drug testing is to give the Workers Comp attorneys at Fields Law a call, so we can help you make the right decisions for your claim. Our attorneys are here to answers your questions and help you understand your options, with no cost or obligation to hire us.