Case name: Smith v. Perfection Architectural, 16 FLWCLB 153 (Fla. JCC, Orlando 2009).
Ruling: The judge of compensation claims found that an employee's accident was compensable even though he tested positive for cocaine after the accident.
What it means:
Where an employee does not play a role in his work injury but tests positive for drugs or alcohol after his work accident, and a causal relationship between the drug's influence or intoxication and the accident is not readily apparent, the employee can successfully rebut the presumption that the work injury was occasioned primarily by the influence of the drugs or alcohol.
An employee was sleeping in a chair with his head on a table during a work break.A coworker approached and hit the table with a hammer. The loud noise disoriented the employee. He testified that the next day he had no hearing in his right ear and his left ear was sensitive. He further testified that the Saturday before the incident, he inhaled cocaine and consumed alcohol. He denied having any side effects at the time of the work incident. A postinjury drug test was positive for a substantial amount of cocaine in his system.
The employee argued that the accident would have occurred with or without his cocaine use. Under Florida's law, if an employer does not have a proper drug-free workplace program, when an employee tests positive for drugs, there is a presumption that the work injury was occasioned by the influence of drugs. However, where the injury was solely the result of a coworker's actions and the lack of a causal relationship between the drug's influence and the accident is readily apparent, the employee can successfully rebut the presumption. The JCC found the employee's claim was compensable and granted his request for medical treatment.
The JCC further found that the employer did not prove it had a drug-free workplace policy in compliance with Florida law. As such, the employer was entitled to a lesser presumption "that the injury was occasioned primarily by the intoxication of, or by the influence of the drug upon, the employee." The court explained an employee may rebut this presumption by clear and convincing evidence that the influence of the drug did not contribute to the injury.
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November 9, 2009
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