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Drugs, Alcohol, and the Drug-Free Workplace Program

In Georgia one of the only legal grounds for denial of a workers’ compensation claim is that the injured worker was intoxicated and that intoxication caused the injury. Because of the increased actuarial risks of intoxicated workers, the state has established a Drug Free Workplace program.  This program sets rules for maintaining a drug free workplace and offers employers the option of obtaining lower workers’ compensation insurance premiums if they follow certain procedures to implement the program.

Denial of Claims for Drug Use

According to Georgia Code § 34-9-17: “No compensation shall be allowed for an injury or death due to intoxication by alcohol or being under the influence of marijuana or a controlled substance, except as may have been lawfully prescribed by a physician for such employee and taken in accordance with such prescription.”

The statute continues by outlining some specifics. Intoxication by alcohol is established much in the same way as a DUI case. A blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher establishes a presumption of being intoxicated. The presence of any amount of marijuana in the system establishes such a presumption. Additionally, refusal to submit to a chemical test establishes a presumption of intoxication. The burden is on the worker in any of these three situations to rebut the presumption that they were intoxicated or that the intoxication was a causal factor in the accident. This can be done in some circumstances, but it is very difficult.

A Note on Prescription Drugs:

The exception for prescription drugs outlined in the statute specifies that they must be “taken in accordance with such prescription.” This means that if your prescription warns you against performing certain duties (such as driving or operating heavy machinery), you should not do such duties while taking the medication. Relatedly, it is a good idea to notify your employer if you are taking certain medications so that they will be aware and not assign you to certain tasks that put you at risk.

The Drug Free Workplace Program

The drug free workplace program allows employers to obtain an insurance premium discount for following certain minimum standards in their substance abuse policies. These policies include mandatory drug testing, written policy requirements, supervisor training on substance abuse, employee assistance programs, and education on substance abuse.

The requirements are all intended in one way or another to ensure that employees are not only on notice of the policies, but are also encouraged to seek help if they develop a substance abuse problem.

If you work in a drug free workplace, it is in your best interest to seek help through your employer’s employee assistance program before an accident happens. After an accident happens, not only is it too late to save your job, but you also will be ineligible for workers’ compensation and have trouble finding another job.

Contact a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have been injured on the job and your employer is attempting to deny your workers’ compensation claim due to allegations of substance abuse, you may still be entitled to recover your benefits. Just because you had a little pot in your system at the time of an accident does not mean that you were even intoxicated, much less that the alleged intoxication caused the accident. But proving this is not easy, and you will need the help of a skilled attorney. Contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at the Bader Law Firm, LLC today.  We know how to handle the difficult issues presented in disputed claims cases, and if there is any way you can recover despite the negative facts in your case, we will find it and secure compensation benefits for you. Do not lose out on your benefits due to a mistake outside of work that had nothing to do with your performance on the job. Get legal help today.

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