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Drug Testing in Workers Compensation Cases

Workers' Compensation and Drug Testing Medical records review is an important process in a workers’ compensation claim, and the medical record retrieval process can be quite challenging. The record review is the basis on which the merit of the case is determined. Often, employers/contractors may require to test their employees on a specific project for the presence of drugs and alcohol. In some cases, the employee may be within his/her rights and under doctor’s orders to take certain prescription drugs or medications.

In workers’ comp cases, drug use can become a particularly controversial topic. Employers and insurance carriers are particularly careful that the benefits they pay injured workers do not go towards supporting an illegal drug habit they may have. To prevent benefits from reaching undeserving workers, many employers require drug testing before employment or during an open workers’ compensation claim. This test is conducted according to rules outlined in specific state statutes. In addition, the employer must have established their workplace as “drug free” under the rules and requirements of the Drug Free Workplace Program. Typically, employers will have to notify the employees of their status as drug-free at the time they are hired.

Sometimes, employers may find themselves facing cases related to drug testing from employees, when they deny benefit claims on the basis of a “false” positive drug test, or when they accidentally disclose drug testing and other confidential information to third parties.

A positive test cannot be considered a basis for disciplinary action against an employee without the employer first preparing a written policy. Employers can avoid claims by complying with the laws governing drug and alcohol testing.

  • Employers have to draft and implement a legally compliant testing policy.
  • A draft of the written policy must be distributed to current employees and made available to prospective employees.
  • The employee must be provided with a list of common medications that can alter the test’s outcome.
  • The employee must be informed about the consequences of refusing a drug test, and also about how to contest or explain a potential positive result.
  • Current employees can only be tested during or immediately after their regular work period. The testing must be treated as work time for purposes of benefits and compensation.
  • The employer/contractor has to pay all testing expenses including transportation costs for off-site testing.
  • All information including the test results must be kept confidential and should be disclosed only to authorized employees, the tested employee or the tested prospective employee.

Injured employees may be prescribed a medication that may return a positive drug test result. Oxycontin or Oxycodone prescribed for severe pain could return a positive result. Medical marijuana legalized in some U.S states could also create problems for employees who have been prescribed this drug for therapeutic purposes.

Employers can avoid issues related to workers’ comp claims by preparing a legally compliant drug and alcohol testing program. When evaluating claims, employers must ensure whether the drugs are prescribed for a medical condition. If the employee is genuinely abusing drugs when receiving benefits, they may be abusing the system and must have their benefits stopped. On the other hand, employers and insurer should ensure that they do not cut off benefits for a worker who is truly injured and drug free, when the drug test may return a false positive.

About Julie Clements

Julie Clements

With some background in the healthcare staffing arena; as well as 6 years as Director of Sales and Marketing at a 4 star resort; Julie joined MOS in March of 2008. Hired for sales and support, Julie has proven capable across multiple product lines and in early 2011 was promoted to supervise all solutions managers.