Today’s post comes from guest author Paul J. McAndrew, Jr. from Paul McAndrew Law Firm in Iowa. For Nebraska, I would note that the law is slightly different, but similar, in this sort of a situation regarding workers’ compensation and intoxication.
Most of us know that, for both professional reasons and in the interest of safety, remaining sober while on the job is essential. However, it is important to also recognize that workers who are intoxicated at the time that they sustain a work injury stand a far lower chance of ever collecting workers’ compensation.
If the blood test shows the presence of alcohol or drugs, odds that the employee will be able to collect workers’ compensation are much lower.
This is because of the intoxication defense: if an employer can prove that intoxication was the cause of the workers’ injury, then they employer is not required to provide workers’ comp for that injury.
Now, there are some notable exceptions. First of all, it’s not enough for a worker simply to have a high blood alcohol reading, or to have drugs in their system. The employer must be able to convince the workers’ compensation judge that the intoxication was a substantial factor in causing the injury.
If an employer can prove that intoxication was the cause of the workers’ injury, then they employer is not required to provide workers’ comp for that injury.
Secondly, if the worker’s intoxication results from activities that were in pursuit of the employer’s interests, or if the employer encouraged employees to drink, the intoxication defense does not apply. For example, if the employer provides alcohol at a work-related event like an office party, and the injury happens shortly thereafter, then the intoxication defense doesn’t apply. Another example would be an event where alcohol is a reimbursable expense, such as a sales dinner, or during work-related travel.
All that said, if a properly administered drug-test indicates that the employee was intoxicated during the time of the work accident, the odds that they will be able to collect workers’ compensation are much lower.