Illinois workers’ compensation: What are the rules relating to prescription drugs or alcohol?

9731238_sIn Illinois, there are situations when workers may consume alcohol or be on prescription medications while on the job. Employees in the beer industry, for example, may taste alcohol in the course of performing their job duties. Likewise, other workers may be taking prescription drugs during the workday at the direction of a physician. In situations such as these, employees may experience the effects of the alcohol or prescription drugs when they are at work.

Both drinking alcoholic beverages and taking prescription medications can cause disabling effects, including impaired judgment, disorientation, blurred vision and slowed reflexes. Workers, who have either alcohol or prescription drugs in their system at the time they suffer an injury at work, could have their workers’ compensation claims denied.

Alcohol rules

Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, employees in Illinois may be deemed ineligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they are found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.08, or higher, at the time of the accidental injury. Benefits would typically also be denied in the event an injured worker was so inebriated that his or her “intoxication constituted a departure from the employment”, or if it is sufficiently plausible that intoxication directly caused the workplace accident and resulting injury.

The best way for employees to avoid a denial of benefits, including disability payments, due to intoxication is to avoid consuming alcohol during the workday. If it cannot be avoided, then workers should use discretion in performing any tasks that could be dangerous while under the influence of alcohol, such as operating a forklift.

Prescription drug rules

Generally, disability and medical privacy laws protect employees, who are taking prescription drugs, even if they are filing for workers’ compensation benefits. Providing that the employee has a current prescription for the medication from a state licensed physician, prescription drugs do not fall under the purview of the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act.

In order to avoid potential issues with a workers’ compensation claim, workers should be aware of the potential side effects of any medications that they are taking. If the side effects could affect their ability to safely perform their job duties, then they may consider speaking with their physician about altering the treatment plan or medication schedule.

Rebutting claim denials

Should injured workers be denied workers’ compensation benefits on the basis of alcohol intoxication, or prescription drug use, they do have some recourse. Claim denials can be rebutted if the employee can prove that intoxication was not the direct, or only direct, cause for the accident and resulting injury. Furthermore, denials can also be rebutted if the alcohol and drug testing is not performed to legal standards by an accredited lab.

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