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Lawmakers vote to cut off workers' comp for drunk employees

Many times when someone is badly hurt, figuring out who is responsible is not so easy. Sometimes, the accused party is 100 percent responsible, but other times, things are not so black and white. The plaintiff may have acted with negligence and contributed to his or her own injuries, a legal concept known as contributory negligence.

In Wisconsin, lawmakers have passed a bill to amend their state’s workers’ compensation system. If signed into law, the bill would block benefits for workers whose injuries were related to drug or alcohol use. The state Assembly passed the bill 97-0, indicating the change was not controversial.

A lobbyist quoted in a news article about the bill said it would close a loophole in the state’s workers’ comp law. He said that currently, a worker can drink beer at lunch, get hurt at work because due to impairment, and get approved for benefits anyway.

The bill would also allow make it easier to investigate workers’ comp fraud. Perhaps as balance, the bill would raise the maximum benefits from $322 to $342 per week until Jan. 1, 2017, when it would go up to $362 per week. The bill next goes to the state Senate.

Nobody disputes that drinking and drug use impairs your ability to drive. It is no surprise that substance use can also affect your ability to do your job safely, especially manual labor jobs like construction and factory work. The choice to drink or get high on the job should not entitle a worker to workers’ compensation when he or she inevitably hurts him- or herself.

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