As a general proposition, the Workers’ Compensation laws of Ohio mandate coverage for all injuries and occupational diseases sustained or contracted in the course of and arising out of the injured workers’ employment. However, if an injury is sustained or a disease contracted as a result of conduct outside the scope of employment, then coverage under Workers’ Compensation will be denied.
When a worker is injured and there is evidence of drugs and/or alcohol in the victim’s system, the question is often whether the injury was the result of employment or the result of being under the influence. Historically, if the employer wanted to raise intoxication as a bar to an otherwise compensable Workers’ Compensation claim, the employer had the burden of proving a.) that the injured worker was intoxicated, and b.) that said intoxication was the cause of the injury.
However, there have been significant changes in the law in recent years that have made it much easier for an employer to challenge otherwise compensable claims when drugs or alcohol are suspected and/or present. Ohio Revised Code Section 4123.54(A)(2) specifically provides that injuries resulting from intoxication or being under the influence of a controlled substance not prescribed by a physician are not compensable. Further, Ohio Revised Code Section 4123.54(B), (C), (D), and (E) define circumstances under which refusing to test or testing positive for drugs and/or alcohol can actually create a rebuttable presumption that the intoxication was the cause of the injury so as to deny coverage.
Today, it is much easier for an employer to challenge compensability of injuries when drugs or alcohol are suspected and/or present. However, it is important to note that the statute as presently written and in the limited circumstances where applicable only creates rebuttable presumption against compensability. What that means, as a practical matter, is that coverage still may be had, but the burden on the injured worker is much more difficult.