Employers cautioned against post-injury drug testing

Can your employer test you for drugs after a workplace accident?

For decades, it has been a standard practice in many states to require employees who are injured on the job to submit to a drug and alcohol test. The reasoning was that workers should not be able to collect workers' compensation benefits if their own intoxication contributed to a workplace injury.

However, employers may have to revisit their drug testing policies in light of a new rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The rule, which goes into effect on January 1, 2017, prohibits employers from using drug testing as retaliation against employees who report being injured on the job, but it does not bar drug testing altogether.

OSHA has long hinted that it frowns upon mandatory post-injury testing without a compelling reason, according to Business Insurance. Many people believe that requiring these tests discourages employees from reporting work injuries out of fear of losing their jobs or being denied benefits. And even if an employee tests positive for drugs, that is not necessarily proof that his or her impairment contributed to an accident - or that he or she was impaired at all.

OSHA vs. state laws

In some states and the military, workers' compensation laws require post-accident drug testing. State workers' comp laws overrule OSHA regulations, so some employees will have no choice but to submit to drug tests. According to a Labor Department official, testing per state law is not retaliatory in nature, so there is no conflict.

Here in Pennsylvania, there is no explicit law governing drug testing in the workplace. This means that employers can generally develop their own policies regarding testing, but those policies will likely have to comply with the new OSHA rule.

If you have any questions about your rights after a workplace injury, it is always wise to speak with an attorney who can help.

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