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Addressing drug-related workers' compensation costs with drug testing, P.4

This is part four in a series of posts addressing the topic of drug-related workers' compensation costs. In previous posts, we've discussed the potential impact of drug abuse on workers' compensation costs and some of the requirements and benefits of participating in the Bureau of Workers' Compensation's Drug-Free Safety Program.

Drug testing can certainly help businesses reduce workers' compensation and other costs stemming from drug-related workplace accidents, whether or not they participate in the Drug-Free Safety Program, but there are certain issues employers should consider when it comes to utilizing drug testing in the workplace. 

First of all, with respect to the Drug-Free Safety Program, not every employer is going to be willing to take the steps necessary to participate in the program. Doing so may be beneficial to an employer, but employers also have to consider the costs of drug testing and other compliance requirements and weigh these costs against the savings they can expect to achieve from drug testing. Employers who do not participate in the Drug-Free Safety Program may modify the extent of their drug testing policy based on this calculus, though performing a cost-benefit analysis isn't always easy.

Second, employers also have to be careful about how they respond to positive tests. While some employers will choose to implement a no tolerance policy, others may offer employees a chance to seek professional help while retaining their employment. Whatever approach an employer uses, it should be consistent and in compliance with applicable state and federal laws.

Third, there is the issue of legal prescription drug use which causes performance problems. Employers facing this problem may be able to take adverse employment action to protect themselves under some circumstances, but they will also have to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other relevant laws which require offering the employee reasonable accommodation.

Another issue that employers in some states have to pay careful attention to is the influence of medical marijuana in the workplace, which can raise legal issues for employers with respect to workers' compensation. We'll say more about Ohio law on this point in a future post.

For employers, of course, working with experienced legal counsel is critical to ensure their business interests are protected even while they work toward make their workplace safer. An experienced attorney will not only be able to help an employer minimize its liabilities around workers' compensation issues, but can also help ensure an employer's workers' compensation rights are protected when threatened. 

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