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Drug Testing in a Workers Compensation Claim

We all know there are certain rules we need to follow while we're at work. Of course, most of these rules change based on the job we have, but some of them are consistent among many or all employers. For example, employees shouldn't be late to arrive to work, shouldn't lie on their time cards, and should complete the duties they are expected to for the day. Other more serious rules, including those on drug use, are designed to foster a workplace environment of healthful and responsible living.

How drug testing works in a workers' compensation claim may not be as straightforward as getting a positive or negative result. In some circumstances, the employee may be within their rights and under doctor's orders to take certain prescriptions or medications. If a misunderstood drug test is hurting your chances at receiving compensation for an on-the-job injury, call the Coye Law Firm today for an evaluation of your case and a possible free consultation.

Florida's Drug-Free Workplace Program

It's no secret that drug use severely diminishes an employee's ability to do their job. On top of that, it creates serious problems in a person's ambition, health, and family life. Because of this, Florida's legislature and the Agency for Health Care Administration developed guidelines for a program that creates a workplace free of drug use, called the Drug Free Workplace Program.

Drug use can become a particularly divisive topic in workers' compensation claims. After all, why would an employer or their insurance carrier want to pay benefits to an injured employee when there is a possibility that the benefits may go towards supporting their illegal drug habit? For this reason, many employers may require drug testing before employment or during an open workers' compensation claim.

Drug Testing in Workers Compensation

According to statute 440.102(2), an employer may deny "medical and indemnity benefits" outlined in chapter 440 of the Florida statutes (which provide workers compensation benefits to injured workers) if an employee's drug test is positive for prohibited substances. However, the employer can only do this in most circumstances if they conduct the test according to rules outlined in the statute. Additionally, the employer must have established their workplace as "drug free" under the rules and requirements of the Drug Free Workplace Program. In most cases, the employer will have to notify you of their status as drug-free at the time you are hired.

When conducting a drug test, an employer must provide:

  • a statement of their policy on drug use, including information on the types of drugs the test is looking to detect and what will happen if the result is positive.
  • the employee with confidentiality.
  • citation of statute §440.102.
  • a list of common medications that can alter the test's outcome.
  • the consequences of refusing a drug test.
  • information on how to contest of explain a potential positive result.
Additionally, the employer may be able to test in any of the following situations:

  • initial job application
  • reasonable suspicion
  • routine "fitness-for-duty"
  • followup for previous drug-related problems
If you have questions about your employer's right to require drug test, you may need to contact a workers compensation attorney. Their work comp experience can help you know when your rights have been violated.

Prescription Controversy

Depending on the employee's injury, they may be prescribed a medication that will return a positive result on a drug test. For example, an employee with severe pain may be prescribed a strong pain killer, such as Oxycontin or Oxycodone, to help them manage their symptoms. Although it is not yet legal in Florida, medical marijuana could also present problems for employees who have been prescribed the drug by a medical doctor for therapeutic purposes.

Benefits Stopped by Positive Test Results

Under Florida law, employers and their workers compensation insurance companies have the right to stop benefits in the case of a positive drug test result. If the employee is truly abusing drugs while on workers compensation, they may be abusing the system and deserve to have their benefits stopped. However, there are some situations in which employers and insurance carriers react too quickly to a false positive, cutting off benefits for a truly injured and drug-free individual.

Recovering from a workplace injury can be difficult enough without the threat of having your benefits stopped. If your work comp case is being threatened by a false positive drug test, contact our workers compensation lawyers today at 800-648-4941.