Drug Testing and Workers’ Compensation in New York


If you’ve suffered a work injury and are looking to apply for workers’ compensation benefits, you’re probably wondering what criteria you need to receive benefits. NYS labor law does require injured workers to receive an initial evaluation to determine if they meet specific criteria. Once your claim is approved, you’ll receive medical care and weekly cash benefits as outlined by the Workers’ Compensation Board, the state agency responsible for processing workers’ comp claims.

It’s important to understand, the State of New York does not assign fault in workers’ compensation cases, and the amount of worker benefits received is not determined by fault. However, workers do potentially become ineligible for compensation if the result of their work-related injury stems from the use of alcohol or drugs at the time of the workplace accident.

After a work-related injury occurs, it’s good to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney. In the event you’re required to take a drug test, a lawyer can ensure your rights to file a workers’ comp claim are protected. Contact the Long Island workers’ comp law firm of Terry Katz & Associates at 888-488-7459 for a free consultation.

Is a Drug Test Required for Workers Comp?

Drug testing is not a requirement by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, but many employers require a drug test to be performed anytime a work-related accident occurs. Insurance companies offer employers the ability to take advantage of discounts associated with workers’ compensation insurance if they promote a drug-free workplace. As a result, employers usually require a worker to be drug tested during the initial examination after an injury occurs.

Employer-required drug tests can complicate a workers’ compensation case. If you think it’s possible a drug test you take can come back positive, you’ll want to immediately consult with an experienced workers’ comp attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will help you navigate any complexities a potentially positive drug test brings under New York State workers’ compensation law.

New York Workers’ Comp Drug Testing Process

New York State law does not have any comprehensive laws for the drug testing process. The state essentially leaves the decision-making surrounding drug tests up to the discretion of the employer. Not every employer will require testing after a workplace injury occurs, but many do. Some employers will insist on an immediate test to be performed.

Section 10 of New York State’s Workers’ Compensation law does explicitly state employers can deny employees benefits if it is determined the cause of the injury was related to the intoxication of alcohol or drugs. That being said, the State of New York does presume workplace-related injuries are not solely caused by a worker being under the influence of a substance. This means the burden of proof falls on the employer to prove beyond reasonable doubt an employee was under the influence of a substance when the accident or injury occurred.

Although refusal to take a drug test can potentially complicate the workers’ compensation claim process. Up to one-fourth of initial claims are denied by employers, and it’s almost certain a good percentage of those employers will use the drug test process as a reason to deny a workers’ compensation claim.

Can You Get Workers Comp if You Fail a Drug Test?

A failed drug test doesn’t automatically exclude you from benefits, but it adds a layer of complication because if you do not pass a drug test, you may become at risk of losing workers’ comp benefits. There are exceptions for positive test results that can be effectively resolved with the right documentation.

For example, prescription drug use is often acceptable, provided you can show a legitimate prescription from a doctor for lawful use. However, it’s essential to understand even some prescription drugs could create barriers due to any rules your employer has set about using specific drugs during work hours if these drugs might put the employee, co-workers, or customers in a position that compromises their safety.

Additionally, marijuana laws are rapidly evolving across the United States, so it’s best to consult with a knowledgeable workers’ comp lawyer because they’ll be well-versed in current New York State laws regarding marijuana drug use. Since marijuana stays in a person’s body for days or weeks after use, you might need to demonstrate you did not use marijuana on the day your job injury occurred.

On the other hand, if there is reasonable suspicion and your drug test results show positive use of illegal controlled substances, such as meth or opiates, this can be grounds to be denied for workers' compensation benefits.

How Long Does a Company Have to Drug Test You After an Accident?

Once injured, you’ll need to first report the accident to management who will likely direct you to visit the emergency room or workers' compensation doctor’s office to receive an evaluation. Chances are your employer will want you to take a drug test immediately to determine if drugs or alcohol were a factor in the cause of the accident. After most workplace incidents, a drug test is performed within the initial 12 hours after the incident occurs.

Most employers have specific substance use policies and, to keep your job, you’ll have to adhere to the rules established by your employer. The consequences of failing a drug test can go well beyond losing workers’ compensation benefits because job security depends upon adhering to an employer’s policies about drug and alcohol use in the workplace. Refusing to follow procedures can come with severe consequences.

The New York Workers’ Compensation Board has a history of ruling in favor of the employer when an employee refuses to take a drug test, allowing it to be grounds for termination. However, this also doesn’t automatically exclude you from receiving benefits to compensate for an injury received on the job. A knowledgeable NYS workers’ comp attorney can help guide you through the legal aspects associated with drug tests and claims.

Our NYC Workers’ Comp Attorneys are Here to Protect You

Have you or a loved one been injured on the job? An NYC workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate the complicated benefits system to gain access to paid medical treatment and cash benefits. When filing a workers’ comp claim, you want to make sure you’re in the best position possible to gain access to these benefits. The legal team at Terry Katz & Associates has more than 30 years of personal injury and workers' compensation experience protecting New York workers by providing them with legal support after suffering an injury while on the job.

Our skilled workers' compensation lawyers are highly knowledgeable about the New York State Labor Law. They are ready to answer any questions about drug testing and how it affects the workers’ compensation process. We can also answer any other general questions you have about filing a claim or eligibility. Contact the attorneys at Terry Katz & Associates for legal advice today. Use our online contact form or call us at 888-488-7459 if you need immediate assistance.

Terry Katz, Esq.
Terry Katz, Esq., the founding Member of the firm, handles all aspects of Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability cases.
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