Most Pennsylvania employers are required to provide Workers’ Compensation benefits to employees who are injured on the job. In fact, according to Workers’ Compensation laws in the state, injured workers can collect benefits regardless of who’s fault the accident was.
There are, however, a few exceptions to this general rule. For instance, if it is discovered that an employee was impaired by or under the influence of alcohol or an illegal substance at the time of the accident, employers are permitted to deny the worker’s claim.
Having the advice of an attorney is of particular importance in these types of situations, so if you were drug tested following an accident at work and your employer subsequently denied your claim for benefits, Workers’ Compensation lawyer who can defend your rights.
Under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act nearly all employees are covered by the state’s Workers’ Compensation laws, including seasonal and part-time employees. The law applies equally to unincorporated businesses, nonprofit corporations, and employers with only a single employee.
In some specific cases, employees are covered by different compensation laws, including railroad workers, harbor and shipyard workers, and federal employees. Volunteer workers, agricultural laborers, and domestic employees may also not be covered.
To determine whether workers’ compensation laws cover you, you should speak with a Workers’ Compensation attorney as soon as possible.
What is Covered?
Most work-related illnesses, diseases, or injuries qualify for benefits under the state’s Workers’ Compensation laws. However, an injury or occupational condition will not fall under the purview of Workers’ Compensation insurance if it was:
- Self-inflicted and done so purposely
- Caused by an employee violating the law;
- Caused by the use of illegal drugs; or
- The result of intoxication.
Aside from these exceptions, injured workers are eligible to collect Workers’ Compensation benefits if they comply with all reporting requirements. For example, an employer is not required to provide compensation to an injured worker unless he or she reported the injury within 120 days of the date that it occurred. However, if a case involves an occupational disease, the injured party has three years to file a claim.
If an injured employee does not fall under one of the exceptions and meets the reporting requirements, he or she could collect the following benefits:
- Wage-loss replacement;
- Death benefits;
- Benefits to compensate the injured party for the loss of the use of a body part; and
- Medical care.
These benefits will continue until the injured employee can return to work.
After a worker suffers a serious injury while on the job, his or her employer may require the employee to take a drug test. This is in large part to determine whether the employee’s ingestion of alcohol or an illegal drug caused the accident.
A positive test could bar an employee from coverage under the state’s Workers’ Compensation laws. However, a recently introduced rule could have a substantial impact on Workers’ Compensation drug tests in Pennsylvania.
Late last year, a federal district court issued an order allowing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to begin implementing a new post-accident drug testing rule. The law allows the agency to independently cite any employers who are found to have prohibited workers from reporting an injury or who retaliated against an employee.
According to OSHA, post-accident drug and alcohol testing could fall under this category and could be deemed retaliatory if it has the effect of discouraging injury reporting.
To pass muster, employers must establish reasonable procedures for employees to report injuries promptly. A system will not be considered reasonable if it deters or discourages reasonable employees from reporting an injury or illness.
OSHA further indicates that mandatory blanket post-accident drug and alcohol testing could discourage reporting and so could qualify as retaliatory and unreasonable. Instead, employers are encouraged to limit their drug testing to situations where:
- There is a reasonable possibility that drug or alcohol consumption could have contributed to the injury; and
- The test can accurately identify whether a worker was impaired when the accident occurred.
If OSHA determines that an employer’s policy is unreasonable or retaliatory, it can issue a citation. This is true even if an employee did not file an initial complaint about his or her employer’s policies.
One of the few exceptions to Workers’ Compensation coverage in Pennsylvania applied when an employee was injured as a result of his or her ingestion of alcohol or an illegal drug. If you were drug tested after an accident and your claim was subsequently denied the good attorneys at Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo may be able to help. You can contact us or call at 877-299-0779 to speak with an experienced attorney about Workers’ Compensation facts.
Remember that Workers’ Compensation law differs from state to state and we can only help if your injury occurred in Pennsylvania. If you were injured in New Jersey, reach out to our good friends at Goldberg & Wolf.