Drug Testing for Worker’s Compensation Benefits in Georgia
People have accidents all of the time. Usually, no one really intends to hurt themselves on the job (note the word usually). This is why it is called an accident. Accidents on the job are what worker’s compensation is for. Yet, as many of us know, employers will often fight paying for on the job injuries.
Consequently, employers have a habit of drug screening employees after accidents. A skilled Georgia Worker’s Compensation Lawyer can like you might find at https://www.workcompgeorgia.com/ will fight claims that were denied based on post-accident drug screening.
Why and Why Not to Drug Screen
Unfortunately, employers know that drug and alcohol use causes almost three times as much absenteeism and three times as many accidents.
In May 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released new regulations pertaining to the protection of workers reporting injuries in the workplace. OSHA came out with the new regulations to prevent employers from discouraging accident reporting with post-incident drug testing and to stop incentivizing drug testing.
In this way, a person who smokes marijuana at home after work hours or takes prescription pain relievers off the job cannot be drug tested after an accident at work and have the company blame it on the drugs (that did not cause the incident).
OSHA considers post-accident drug testing to be “retaliatory”. OSHA also considers any incentives for periods of time without accidents to discourage workers for reporting.
Sadly, OSHA cannot prevent post-accident “blanket” drug testing if it is required by state law.
Georgia Worker’s Compensation law clearly states that “an employer shall not have a legal duty under this article to request an employee or job applicant to undergo testing.” O.C.G.A. §34-4-415.
However; a company is fully within its rights to offer a discount on worker’s compensation insurance premiums if an employee is willing to undergo random or periodic drug testing. Therefore, employees would not be compensated for underreporting accidents but compensated for maintaining safety on the job.
OSHA has also made laws attempting to change employer incentives for fewer accidents. At one point; employers could enjoy tax breaks for fewer accidents. OSHA has been trying to cut back on tax laws like these because they implicitly cause underreporting accidents.
Changes From New OSHA Regulations
Employers in Georgia have begun to defer to “reasonable suspicion testing” rather than “blanket testing”. Here, an employer has to write up reasons and usually evidence to the effect that the employee was likely high or drunk at the time of the accident.
Problems With Case-by-case Testing
Arguably, this method of drug screening can be entirely biased. At least with blanket testing, everyone is treated equally; with the same post-accident procedures. Since Georgia Worker’s Compensation Law only dictates that employers don’t have to drug screen after an accident; the employer is left with great discretion.
Unfortunately, reasonable suspicion testing is a great way for employers to get rid of employees that may have known drug and alcohol problems while not paying for the accident. Discriminating against an employee for these reasons are a serious issue that a Georgia workers compensation attorney can also assist a client with.