Potential Impact Of Workplace Drug Testing On Workers Comp Benefits In Minnesota

On Behalf of | May 30, 2018 | Workers' Compensation |

Minnesota is one of 12 states which have mandatory workplace drug testing laws. Although drug use may lead to the denial of workers comp benefits under certain circumstances, an employer must successfully follow the mandatory drug testing laws for there to be any possibility of a denied claim.

Results of Annual Report

An annual drug testing report suggests that drug use by workers has risen to the highest level in almost a decade. The 2015 Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index compiles test results from 9.5 million urine tests conducted in the U.S. workforce. Over the past decade, the positive test rate has fluctuated between 3.5 percent and 4.1 percent. In 2015, the 4.0-percent rate was higher than the 3.9-percent rate in 2014. The positive test rate was higher in safety-sensitive jobs and to testing in workplaces in general.

The annual report breaks down drug testing into several categories including post-accident urine drug testing. Post-accident positive test results occurred 6.9 percent of the time in 2015, up from 6.5 percent the previous year. The positive results point to significant increases in drug use in these areas:

  • Marijuana, up 26 percent
  • Amphetamines, up 44 percent
  • Heroin, up 147 percent

At the same time, the positive test rate for certain opioid prescription drugs declined. Also, long-term trends show a steady decline in overall drug use among American workers. In 1989, the first year the Quest report was published, the positive test rate was 12.7 percent, more than triple the latest rate reported for 2015.

Minnesota Workplace Drug Testing

In general, workplace drug testing is largely governed by state laws. Federal laws address employer drug testing only in safety-sensitive environments. Although there is mandatory workplace drug testing in Minnesota, it can occur only under specific circumstances. Also, state law does not allow an employer to terminate an employee who tests positive for the first time as long as that employee completes a rehab program successfully.

Different procedures exist for job applicants and existing employees. Employers are not required to conduct mandatory workplace drug testing, but if they do so it cannot be on an arbitrary basis. Such testing can occur only in accordance with a written policy which clearly addresses the consequences of one refusing to take the test or to testing positive. Employers are also required to post the policy.

When the employer has a reasonable suspicion that an employee is under the influence of drugs, the company may require a test under certain circumstances, such as when the employee is involved in an accident. Random drug testing is usually not permitted, except in safety-sensitive occupations.

Workers Comp and Drug Tests

A positive drug test alone does not provide a basis for a denial of workers comp benefits in Minnesota. Usually, the employer has the burden of proof to establish that the injured worker was under the influence of drugs at the time the accident occurred and that it was the major cause of the injury.

Employee Rights Regarding Drug Testing

When a drug test is used to deny benefits or to terminate an employee, he or she has certain legal rights. Legal claims against an employer may arise due to problems with any of the following:

  • Testing procedures
  • Who did the testing
  • How the test results were used

Under certain circumstances, workers may have discrimination claims or make invasion of privacy claims. If an employer publicizes a false positive test result, a defamation suit is possible under certain circumstances.

If you or a family member is injured on the job, it is important to protect one’s rights under the state’s workers compensation and other applicable laws. Our firm offers an initial consultation free-of-charge. To learn more, please contact us.

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