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Can marijuana use affect workers' compensation benefits?

With marijuana now legalized for medicinal use in some states, including New York, the laws regulating it in the workplace may need some updating. Back in 2013, an employee of a juvenile center in another state injured his neck and shoulder while trying to subdue an aggressive youth. His workers' compensation benefits claim was questioned when blood tests revealed that he tested positive for marijuana.

Reportedly, a drug test following the incident showed the presence of pot in his system, and so did a follow-up test on the next day. Although a court determined that the marijuana might not have been the major cause of the incident that caused the injuries, it rejected his claim for compensation. The worker appealed, claiming the court based its finding on only one sentence of the law, rather than applying the entire section in context.

Apparently, the law says no compensation will be paid to an employee who suffered injuries while impaired by alcohol or illegal chemicals or drugs. However, the preceding sentence provides that if a preponderance of the evidence establishes that the substance present in the employee's blood was not the primary cause of the injuries, then the claim will be compensable. The state's highest court reversed the denial of the claim and found the employee eligible for benefits.

Many injured employees in New York whose benefits claims are denied seek the help of an experienced workers' compensation attorney. Having a skilled lawyer to fight for their rights may lead to the compensation to which they are entitled. Such a professional can guide injured workers through the claims process and assist with challenging legal barriers that may arise.

Source: safetynewsalert.com, "Injured at work, positive test for pot: Does he get workers' comp?", Fred Hosier, Accessed on Feb. 3, 2017

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