Drugs and/or Alcohol in the Workplace

Although it has been claimed that alcohol or drugs are involved in up to half of all workers’ compensation cases, experts say this is simply not the case. Unfortunately, there are few industry statistics on workers’ comp claims which stem from drug or alcohol use. Certainly the potential for an occupational injury due to impairment exists, however most would agree alcohol and drugs do not contribute to anywhere near the 50 percent claim. That being said, the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health concluded approximately 9 percent of 18-64 year old, full-time workers, met the criteria for heavy alcohol use, and that, in the preceding twelve months 7 percent had drunk alcohol during the workday, 1.7 percent had worked while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, and 9 percent had come to work with a hangover.

States Determine Whether Impairment Will Result in Denied Benefits

Some states allow the denial of workers’ comp benefits due to impairment resulting from the use of alcohol or drugs, while others do not. In 2012, the state of Mississippi made some significant changes regarding intoxication and workers’ comp. These changes included:

  • Benefits will not be paid to the injured employee if the use of alcohol and illegal or prescription drugs is the proximate cause of the injury;
  • Employers have the right to request a drug or alcohol test for an employee making a workers’ comp claim;
  • In the event an alcohol test results in a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater, the presumption will be the alcohol was the cause of the injury;
  • If the Claimant refuses to take a drug test, it will be presumed alcohol, prescription drugs or illegal drugs were the cause of the accident and resulting injury, and
  • Once that presumption arises, the worker making the claim must prove alcohol or drugs were not a factor in the injury.
Industries Which are More Likely to Have Impaired Workers

Most would agree that there are more drug and alcohol-free workplaces due to the number of educational programs sponsored by insurers as well as federal and state agencies. Even so, a 2009 Rand Corp. study found the association between substance abuse and occupational injuries is greater in specific industries, most notably, construction and manufacturing. While these industries may be more likely to have workers who come to work impaired or with a hangover, the Rand researchers concluded the overall association between occupational injuries and substance abuse was “relatively small.”

Does No-Fault Truly Mean No-Fault?

Despite the fact most would agree drugs and alcohol use should not be acceptable in the workplace and that the use of these substances should certainly not be rewarded, some states have, apparently, done just that. The Arizona Supreme Court determined employees who were injured at work were entitled to workers’ comp even if the employee was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time the accident occurred. In fact, denying workers’ comp benefits due to impairment was ruled unconstitutional by the Arizona Supreme Court. This court felt that because workers’ comp is considered no-fault coverage for any injuries which occur during the course of employment benefits cannot be denied simply because an employee failed to pass a drug test.

Contact Our Mississippi Workers Compensation Lawyers

Despite the Mississippi changes to the workers’ comp laws governing those workers who were under the influence when their injury occurred, if you have been denied benefits based on alleged impairment, it could be helpful to speak to an experienced Mississippi workers’ comp attorney. Your attorney can determine whether your benefits were illegally denied and whether you are, in fact, eligible for benefits. Don’t wait—call a Mississippi workers’ comp attorney today. At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys fight aggressively for injured employees and their families – to ensure that they receive the money they need to fully recover. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at 1-601-948-1600 or 1-877-231-1600.

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