Why Drinking and Working Don’t Mix
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Why Drinking and Working Don’t Mix

When workers choose to drink or take drugs at work, accidents often follow. Whether you work in a warehouse or an office, you can get injured there from being intoxicated. Keep in mind that in Minnesota, you may have a hard time getting workers’ comp benefits for your injury.

The general rule is that you cannot receive workers’ compensation benefits if your intoxication was the “proximate cause” of your injury. In other words, drunkenness led directly to the injury, without any other causes. (Minn. Stat. § 176.021, subd. 1.)

If a worker falls off a ledge at work because he had two beers that affected his balance, the intoxication would likely be the proximate cause of his injury. But if he fell off the ledge because a coworker lost her grip on a box, and it hit him, it would not matter if he had a few beers. The box caused his fall.

Workers’ compensation judges have said that intoxication must be the only cause of injuries. If the intoxication contributed in some way to the injury, but was not the only cause, the worker may still receive benefits. (Bitterman v. Safe Way Bus Co., No. WC13-5581, 2013 WL 6151363, at *8 (Minn. WCCA Oct. 31, 2013).)

In the example given above, the insurance company might argue that someone unaffected by alcohol would not have fallen or would have avoided the falling box. But the fact remains that alcohol was not the only reason the injury occurred. The box caused the worker to fall off the ledge.

Like alcohol, drugs (legal or illegal) may cause employees to become intoxicated on the job. If you begin taking a prescription medication that may affect your safety on the job, notify your employer. Your employer may put extra safety precautions in place or ask you for a doctor’s note. Make sure to follow the safety rules and take your medication only when prescribed. If you get injured while on the medication, you will need evidence that the medication was not the only cause of the accident.

Keep in mind that many employers make workers take drug and alcohol tests – sometimes randomly throughout their employment. If you are caught intoxicated on the job, you may receive discipline or get fired outright. Your employer can fire you for being intoxicated if you got injured while drunk. However, the law prohibits employers from firing employees for filing workers’ compensation claims. (Minn. Stat. § 176.82.)

Need help getting workers’ compensation for your intoxication-related injury? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.