Increased Workers’ Comp Benefits for Drug-Free Workplaces in Arkansas

The United States lacks a federally mandated, nationwide, workplace drug and testing policy. Because of this, laws widely vary state by state. A number of states, including Arkansas, offer workers’ compensation premium discounts for employers that comply with the state’s voluntary drug testing laws.

In Arkansas, employers are offered a 5% discount on workers’ compensation costs. However, an employer must meet strict conditions to receive this benefit. Drug and alcohol testing must comply with the standards and procedures outlined in Arkansas Code Ann. 11-14-101 and Arkansas Admin. Rules 099.36 (Rule 36). Additionally, employers must report annually to the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Our Fayetteville workers’ compensation attorneys have over twenty years of practice. Drug testing in the workplace is permitted. However, many employers fail to follow the state regulations or engage in discriminatory practices. Additionally, if you are injured on the job, you could be required to submit to a drug test before you receive workers’ compensation benefits. A refusal or positive test result could result in a denial. If you have any questions regarding Arkansas’ drug-free workplace benefits, drug testing in the workplace, or workers’ compensation in general, contact our law offices at (479) 316-0438.

The Purpose of a Drug-Free Workplace in Arkansas

The purpose behind Arkansas’ legislative measure is to afford employers the opportunity to maximize the productivity of their employees, enhance their positions in the marketplace, and obtain their desired level of economic success without the costs and tragedies associated with drug and alcohol-related accidents and distributions.

The rule is also meant to discourage drug and alcohol abuse by Arkansas employees, which often results in unemployment and prohibits workers’ compensation benefits. If you have any questions about the purpose of Rule 36, contact our Arkansas workers’ compensation attorneys.

Written Notice Required for Drug-Free Workplace in Arkansas

If a business decides to create a drug-free workplace under Rule 36, it must provide its employees and job applicants a one-time written policy statement. While an employer has the right to modify this statement, it must include a number of specific elements.

First, the notice must identify that a condition of employment is that an employee must not report to work or engage in any work-related activity under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This part of the notice will list the types of drug and alcohol tests the employee or job applicant will be required to submit to and what disciplinary actions the employer is entitled to take based on a positive test result or if the employee refuses to submit to a test.

The notice must also have a statement informing the employee or job applicant of the existence of Rule 36, including what protections the employee has under this rule, including any applicable collective bargaining agreements, contractual protections, the right to appeal a decision in court.

The employer must also supply a representative list of employee substance abuse and rehabilitation programs.

An employee or job applicant must be furnished with a list of all classes of drugs that the employer could test for.

Finally, the employer must include a statement concerning the confidentially of any findings pursuant to testing under Rule 36.

If you think your employer failed to comply with Rule 36 or if you were not provided the information you should have been, talk with our Arkansas workers’ compensation attorneys.

Employee Protections Under Rule 36 in Arkansas

A job applicant or worker has the right to contest or offer an explanation for a positive confirmed test. This response must be submitted to a medical review officer within five working days of receiving written notice of the results. If the medical review officer is unsatisfied with the employee’s challenge or explanation, the test result will be reported to the employer. If the employee is terminated over the test result, they have thirty days to file a written appeal with the Arkansas Department of Labor. If you believe your test results are inaccurate or otherwise misleading, contact our Bentonville workers’ compensation attorneys.

If a job applicant or employee is taking prescription or nonprescription medicines as part of treatment or for other health-related reasons, they must be given a reasonable opportunity to consult with a medical review officer. Furthermore, an employer must provide their employees and job applicants a means to confidentially report the use of these medications to a certified medical review officer after a test has been completed. It should be noted that this obligation only exists if the employee tested positive for drug or alcohol use.

An employer is not permitted to discipline, discharge, or discriminate against a new applicant based on a positive result that has not been verified or confirmed by a medical review officer. This includes requires or demanded that an employee or job applicant enter a rehabilitation program.

Furthermore, an employer is not allowed to terminate, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against an employee for requesting treatment for drug or alcohol-related problems if the employee has not previously tested positive for alcohol or drug use. This prohibition includes taking action against an employee who has entered a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program or employee assistance program. An employer may select the program or rehabilitation facility if the employer pays the expense of the program. However, Rule 36 does not require an employer to provide such a program.

If you believe your employer has violated any provisions of Rule 36, is it critical to speak with one of our Benton County workers’ compensation lawyers, so you understand your rights and obligations.

Legal Claims Arising in Arkansas From Workplace Drug Testing

Arkansas also provides additional protections for workers who are required to take a drug test. While an employee is permitted to drug test its employees and applications, there could still be legal grounds to raise a legal complaint based on how the test was conducted, which employees or applications were tested, and how the results of the tests were used. If any of the following situations apply to your workplace, contact our Arkansas workers’ compensation attorneys to review your legal options.

Violation of State Procedures and Laws

An employer has the right to request and perform a drug test. Nonetheless, it must comply with state law. For example, if your employer failed to provide notice of its testing policy, there could be legal grounds for a lawsuit.

Discrimination Claims

An employer’s testing policy could be discriminatory in practice. For example, an employee or applicant with a disability or medical impairment is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If a prescribed medication results in a positive drug test and an employee is fired or not hired based on the results of the test, the employer could be held liable.

Discrimination could take other forms. Employers are not permitted to target certain groups for testing based on their race, gender, or age. If you believe your drug test was a form of discrimination, contact our Arkansas employment attorneys.

Invasion of Privacy or Defamation

The way an employee conducts a drug test could constitute an invasion of privacy or defamation. For example, you should not be required to provide a urine sample while in front of other employees. Similarly, a request to disrobe could be construed to be an invasion of an employee’s privacy. If something appears wrong, it probably is.

In other situations, an employer’s conduct could result in a defamation claim. For instance, if an employer believes that the result of a drug test is questionable yet still publicizes that an employee tested positive. Furthermore, your employer should not disclose any information if you are appealing a positive test result or waiting on the results of an additional test.

Your employer has the right to subject you to drug testing. However, there are rules and regulations in place. If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination or another violation, call our Arkansas lawyers immediately.

Drug Testing While on Workers’ Compensation in Arkansas

If you are injured while working in Arkansas, you should file a worker’s compensation claim to cover your medical bills and lost wages. However, to qualify for benefits, you will be required to meet specific criteria. Workers’ compensation benefits are not provided automatically. It is vital to have our experienced Arkansas workers’ comp lawyers advocating on your behalf to help ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.

Required Drug Test After a Workplace Accident

Part of the process in obtaining workers’ comp benefits is proving that the injury occurred while you were on the job. You will also have to prove that you were following your employer’s policies regarding workplace injuries. This means you will most likely have to submit to a drug test.

Refusing to take the test could result in your much-needed benefits being denied.  Your employer is not responsible for any injuries that occur if you were intoxicated or using any other controlled substance, so they will want to confirm you were adhering to the company’s drug use policy. You should talk with our Arkansas workers’ compensation attorneys before you refuse to take a drug test.

The majority of employers in Arkansas will require a drug test before medical treatment. It is the only way to ensure that there were no drugs or alcohol in the employee’s system around the time of the accident. In some cases, an employer will have the test conducted on-site. An employer’s insurance provider will also want to verify that you were not drunk or high before paying a workers’ compensation claim. Especially when a substantial of work-related injuries, such as slip and fall accidents, are more likely to happen if an employee’s physical or mental capabilities are diminished.

Insurance Companies and Drug Tests

As stated above, if you refuse to submit to a drug test following an accident, your employer’s insurance provider will likely deny your claim. An insurance company is not in business to pay claims. A refusal could be used as valid grounds to deny your worker’s comp claim – especially if you refuse without competent legal representation. The insurance company has attorneys working to find ways to limit liability. You should not provide them opportunities to do so.

If your claim was denied because you refused to submit to a drug test, our Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyers could appeal your case. However, it will be difficult. There are very few good reasons to refuse a drug test. It might be possible to argue that you needed immediate attention and your employer was pushing for an on-site test. In this case, our office could argue that you refused because your injuries were too serious to wait.

Positive Test Results

A positive drug test after a workplace injury is not a good thing. In nearly every instance, an insurance company will deny your workers’ compensation claim. However, if you have any chance of receiving the benefits you need, you should have our experienced Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyers advocating on your behalf. While a positive test result means your claim will likely be denied, it is not automatic. There could be underlying reasons why the test was positive, including an error in its administration or you were taking a legally prescribed drug.

Contact Our Arkansas Worker’s Compensation Attorneys Regarding Rule 36

Arkansas has offered employers an incentive to create drug-free workplaces. Under Rule 36, employers receive a 5% discount on workers’ compensation insurance premiums while reducing turnover, delays, absences, and employee turnover due to drug and alcohol abuse. Nonetheless, employees still have rights and protections – especially if your employer failed to adhere to state regulations. If you have questions or believe you have been mistreated under Rule 36, contact our Arkansas workers’ compensation attorneys. Call our law offices at (479) 316-0438.