It is important to understand that illegal drug use, besides being an illegal activity that could draw criminal charges, could also have a profound impact on your ability to obtain workers’ compensation benefits if you are hurt at work while under the influence of drugs. Termination for cause always makes workers’ compensation claim murkier and can affect how long you have wage loss benefits.
As for illegal drug use, the Commonwealth Court clarified the rule that could very well negate wage loss benefits if a person is injured at work, but fails a drug test. In Brewer v. WCAB, No. 337 C.D. 2012 (Pa C,mwlth, 2013) the Court clarified the rule. The basic crux of entitlement to wage loss benefits is that the employee must not only show physical impairment (work injury) but that the work injury is disabling (causes loss of earning power). In other words, just because one is hurt at work does not mean they are entitled to wage loss benefits. The injury must cause loss of earning power.
In the above-reference d case, a Claimant was injured on the job when a forklift another workers was driving pinning his back into a conveyor belt. The Claimant filed a Claim Petition alleging a low back injury and loss of wages. While treating at the emergency room, a drug test was performed in accordance to the employer’s substance abuse policy. A positive drug test was returned. Subsequently, the employer terminated the injured employee for cause for failing the drug test.
Despite the employee being hurt at work and suffering a loss of wages, the Workers’ Compensation Judge found for the employee and granted the Claim Petition, but also granted the employer’s suspension petition due tot he termination of the employee for cause. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court upheld the decision stating that the employee’s loss of earnings was not the result of the injury, but the result of termination for cause.
Here the employer had light duty to offer the employee within the employee’ work restrictions and would have offered light duty to the employee but for the termination for cause. The Court essentially said once the light duty was available, the loss of earnings was no longer a result of the injury, because light duty was available, but was resultant from his discharge.
Moral of the post: Stay off drugs for many reasons!
If you live in Pennsylvania in Adams County, Cumberland County, Dauphin County, York County, Perry County, or Fulton County and have been hurt at work, contact Mooney & Associates right away to ensure your workers’ compensation right are protected. Remember, the workers compensation insurance carriers have attorneys, so should you!