New York employers generally have an obligation to provide a safe work environment. They need to abide by industry-specific workplace regulations and provide their employees with adequate training, as well as appropriate safety gear. Yet, workers also have responsibilities when it comes to safety. For example, many employers have comprehensive employee handbooks discussing expectations for workers, including showing up to their jobs sober.
Despite the best efforts of many New York businesses, employees can still get hurt on the job, sometimes with very serious consequences. A worker injury will sometimes lead to a workers’ compensation claim wherein an individual seeks both disability benefits and healthcare coverage for their job-acquired health condition. While often warranted, these claims are often expensive for employers. As a result, companies understandably seek to minimize their liability when workers are not rightfully entitled to compensation.
Changing drug laws in New York have altered the drug-free workplace approach privately utilized by many employers. However, drug testing after a workplace incident can still help companies limit their liability for worker injuries in certain scenarios.
How can testing help?
Simply failing a drug test or having a detectable amount of alcohol in one’s bloodstream will not automatically render a worker ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, a positive drug or alcohol test can lay the foundation for a successful defense brought by their employer.
A company will not be able to simply deny a worker benefits because of drug test results, but it is possible to use those test results to develop a reasonable response to the worker’s claim. The company would generally need to prove that not only was the worker under the influence on the job but also that their chemical impairment directly caused their injury.
Combining worker testimony or security camera footage with drug test results could create a very compelling defense strategy for some organizations facing a sizable workers’ compensation claim. While companies do have liability for employee injuries in all kinds of scenarios, a violation of company policy is one of the scenarios in which a worker could become ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Proving that someone was under the influence on the job and that impairment contributed to their injuries could help a business better respond to a worker’s insistence that they need their employer to provide health coverage and disability benefits to facilitate their recovery.