Drug Tests and Workers’ Comp Benefits in Florida: What Injured Employees Need to Know
When employees file workers’ compensation claims, their employers will often fight their claims by all means available. Employers don’t want to be held responsible for benefits unnecessarily, and even though workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system in Florida, having a high number of paid claims can lead to additional costs and challenges.
Employers use a variety of strategies to fight their employees’ workers’ compensation claims. One of these strategies is aggressive drug testing. Under Florida law, employers can deny workers’ compensation benefits to employees who get injured due to drug or alcohol impairment, and, in some cases, an employee’s alcohol or drug use will be presumed to be the cause of his or her injury.
Florida’s Law on Drug Tests and Workers’ Comp Benefits
In Florida, all employers have the ability to require drug testing if they have reason to believe that an employee’s job-related injury may be due to alcohol or drug impairment. If the circumstances surrounding your accident suggest that you may have been drunk or high, your employer can require you to undergo testing. If you refuse an appropriate request to undergo testing, your employer can deny your claim for workers’ compensation benefits, and if you submit to testing and test positive, your employer can use this as grounds to deny your claim as well.
Additionally, in some circumstances, employers are required to test employees who file for benefits. This requirement applies to employers that are participating in Florida’s drug-free workplace program. Participating in this program gives employers a discount on their workers’ compensation coverage, and, theoretically, the program is designed to minimize the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents in the workplace. As a practical matter, however, the program mostly serves to create additional challenges for employees who need to seek workers’ compensation benefits.
When an employer meets Florida’s standards for maintaining a drug-free workplace, a positive test result creates a presumption that the employee’s injury is alcohol or drug-related. While this presumption can be overcome, collecting benefits in this scenario is even more difficult than collecting benefits when you do not work in a “drug-free” environment.
Fighting for Workers’ Compensation if You Test Positive for Drugs or Alcohol
While your employer may have the right to test you, you also have the right to challenge the results of your drug test. Although there are no guarantees, there are several possible ways to dispute the accuracy, reliability or relevance of a drug test when filing for benefits. For example, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer may be able to help you secure benefits by showing that:
- The Testing Procedure Used is Unreliable – When testing their employees for workers’ compensation purposes, employers in Florida must follow certain established procedures. Failure to follow these procedures can produce a test result that is unreliable in the eyes of the law.
- The Testing Device Wasn’t (or Possibly Wasn’t) Properly Calibrated – Failure to properly calibrate a testing device prior to administering a drug test can produce an unreliable result as well. If your lawyer can show that the device used for your drug test wasn’t calibrated (or even possibly wasn’t calibrated), this will call the reliability of your test result into question.
- Your Sample Was (or May Have Been) Contaminated – Sample contamination is another possible issue with drug testing. Likewise, if it is possible that your sample got switched with someone else’s, you should not be denied benefits based on a test result that might not be yours.
- You Were Not Impaired – Even if your drug test results are valid, this does not necessarily mean that you were impaired. Many types of drugs can remain in your system for days, or even weeks, after consumption. So, even if you tested positive, this still does not conclusively establish that you were under the influence when you got injured on the job.
- Your Impairment Was Not a Factor In Your Accident – Finally, your lawyer may be able to help you secure benefits by showing that your impairment (if any) was not a factor in your accident. For example, let’s say you got injured because a piece of equipment malfunctioned or one of your coworkers made a careless mistake. In each of these scenarios, any impairment you may have been experiencing should be entirely irrelevant to your claim for benefits.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your injury and your drug test, you may have other grounds to pursue a claim for benefits as well. When you contact a lawyer for a free initial consultation, your lawyer should thoroughly examine the facts of your case and determine what options you have available.
What Happens if You Refuse a Drug Test When Filing for Workers’ Comp in Florida?
Let’s say your employer asks you to take a drug test and you refuse. At this point, is your workers’ compensation claim over?
Not necessarily. While employers can deny workers’ compensation claims based on drug test refusals generally, there are some exceptions—including:
- Your Employer Lacked Reasonable Suspicion for Drug Testing – If your employer lacked reasonable suspicion for requesting a drug test in your particular case, then you may have been within your rights to refuse the test.
- Your Employer Failed to Follow the Requirements Under Florida’s Drug–Free Workplace Program – If your employer is participating in Florida’s drug-free workplace program and has failed to meet the program’s requirements (i.e., the requirement to notify employees of the types of drugs tested or the requirement to notify employees of the consequences of refusing a drug test), this may give you grounds to fight for benefits as well.
Get Help from an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Florida
Regardless of your specific circumstances, if you are dealing with a drug testing issue related to your workers’ compensation claim—or if you have questions about how taking (or refusing) a drug test could impact your legal rights—you should speak with a lawyer promptly. For a free, no-obligation consultation at The Gallagher Law Group, call 954-737-4269 or contact us online now.