If your employer can prove you were drunk or high at work, you may lose your workers’ compensation benefits.
However, in New Jersey, employers can only raise this defense to a workers’ compensation claim if they can prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that your work-related injuries were caused solely by your intoxication.
An example of how this law may work in your favor comes from the 2006 case Tlumac v. High Bridge Stone, decided in the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The Thlumac case revolved around James Tlumac, who drove a tractor-trailer for High Bridge Stone. At the time of his accident, he had worked 12 days in a row and had logged a total of 230 hours. His wife had recently suffered a broken hip, increasing his family responsibilities and causing him to lose sleep.
At 8:00 PM, he was up on the roof of his house, doing some repairs and drinking a beer. He was up at 2:15 AM for work. His wife made coffee and saw no signs of intoxication. But he was in an accident, and his blood alcohol level was slightly over the legal limit at 0.087.
Tlumac’s attorney showed that his exhaustion, roadway conditions, mental state, and other factors had far more to do with the accident than his intoxication and awarded him workers’ compensation.
Drug Testing After an Injury
In New Jersey, employers do not have the right to drug test you just because you’ve been injured unless you work in a safety-sensitive position.
They must have “cause” to test. So, if you came to work on a day where you were acting visibly intoxicated or out of it, your employer might find “cause,” but if you were acting normally on the day of the accident and have no witnesses that say otherwise, they can’t test you.
In addition, they must implement procedures that preserve your dignity, provide advance warning that they intend to test you and refrain from disclosing information obtained due to testing.
Get Help Today
If there’s even a small chance that alcohol or drug issues could come up in your case, you should treat it as a complex case that may require help from a workers’ compensation lawyer.
This is especially true in the era of marijuana legalization, in which any given employee might have a little marijuana in their system because they’re using it to manage pain at home and because it stays in the bloodstream for so long.
Call us today to protect your benefits.