Workers' Comp Legal Update

NM Proposes Cutting Benefits to Impaired Claimants

A proposal to sharply reduce workers' comp benefits for substance abusing claimants has the support of more than 65 percent of state residents.
By: | February 13, 2015

Once again, a New Mexico lawmaker is trying to significantly reduce workers’ comp payments to injured workers where drugs or alcohol played a role in the injury. This time, he has the backing of a majority of state residents.

State Rep. Dennis Roch said his proposal would help protect workers put at risk by those who are high or drunk on the job and hold violators accountable for their actions. The current law allows injured workers to receive 90 percent of benefits when alcohol or drugs are a factor.

“Compensation benefits otherwise due and payable from an employer under the terms of the Workers’ Compensation Act shall be reduced by the degree to which the intoxication or influence contributes to the worker’s injury or death; provided that the reduction shall be a minimum of 35 percent but no more than 85, subject to the other requirements of this section,” reads H.B. 238. “If a post-accident test pursuant to Subsection C of this section is required of a worker and the worker refuses to submit to the test or to release the post-accident test results to the employer, no compensation otherwise payable from an employer under the terms of the Workers’ Compensation Act shall be paid to the worker claiming compensation.”

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The bill says the “drug” or “controlled substance” under the proposal “does not include medications prescribed to a worker by the worker’s licensed health care provider and taken in accordance with directions of the prescribing health care provider or dispensing pharmacy, unless such medication is combined with alcohol or a non-prescribed drug or controlled substance to cause intoxication or influence.”

Employers would be responsible for paying for the tests and need to give employees written notice that the workplace is drug and alcohol free.

Roch’s proposal follows a recent poll showing 67 percent of state residents favor reducing workers’ comp benefits when drugs or alcohol play a role in a worker’s injury or death. The survey in the Albuquerque Journal said 63 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans supported it.

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

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