Marijuana users who are injured on the job won’t necessarily be denied New York workers’ compensation benefits. Why? In most cases your employer will have to show that your drug use caused the accident. If they can’t do that – you will receive benefits.
It can be very difficult to make that determination, even if employers have blood tests showing that you have marijuana in your bloodstream. There is disagreement on what blood drug levels have to be in order for a worker to be considered impaired.
Two workers’ comp cases involving workers who consumed marijuana sometime before their accident show two different ways that these types of cases can be resolved.
In one case, a man was mauled by a bear he was caring for. He was found to have marijuana in his bloodstream, but he was awarded workers’ comp benefits anyway. The judge in his case decided that he had a dangerous job and his employer could not prove that marijuana use contributed to the accident.
Another recent case had a different result. A man was seriously injured while operating heavy machinery for road construction. He was found to have four times the level of marijuana in his system necessary for him to be impaired. The workers’ comp board initially awarded him benefits, but his employer appealed – and they were successful.
How did they do this? They brought in a toxicologist and a construction expert to testify that given his blood marijuana levels the man was impaired, and that the decisions he made on the job site led to the accident. The judge denied him benefits.