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Indiana Workers Compensation Act: Termination of Wage Replacement Benefits for Failing Drug Screen

Under the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act there are normally three different benefits that an injured worker can except to receive. First, the injured worker can expect that his or her employer will pay for all medical treatment for the work-related injury. Second, the injured work can expect to receive wage replacement benefits otherwise known as temporary total disability (“TTD”) benefits. Third, the injured can expect to receive compensation for any permanent injury as a result of the work-related injury. This happens when a permanent partial impairment (“PPI”) rating is assigned after the injuried worker reaches maximum medical improvement (“MMI”).

With respect to TTD benefits, there are several different events that can occur resulting in the TTD benefits being terminated. Normally, TTD benefits are terminated once the injured worker reaches MMI, that is, once the treating doctor has concluded that the injured worker has returned to his or her baseline level or MMI.

However, sometimes the wage replacement benefits are terminated because the injured worker refuses work that is offered to him or her that is within the doctor’s restrictions. In other instances, the TTD benefits might be terminated because the injured worker tests positive for drugs or alcohol and is terminated from his or her employment.

If the injured worker fails a drug screen, then the employer may terminate the employee’s employment. Once the employee is terminated, the employer has no obligation to pay wage replacement benefits. If the failed drug screen occurred immediately after the work-related injury the termination of wage replacement benefits will like be upheld by the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board.

However, if the employee is terminated from his or her employment because of a failed drug screen that was randomly administered several months after the work-related incident and while the employee is off work as a result of the work-related injury, the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board is not likely to uphold the termination of wage replacement benefits.

There are several considerations that are taken into account, including the type of drug consumed, the amount, as well as the time that has elapsed since the employee was taken off work. If the employee fails a random drug screen, there certainly is not any basis for contesting the termination, but there would be a basis for contesting the termination of TTD benefits because there really is not a good faith reason for cutting off the wage replacement benefits because of a failed drug screen.

The Worker’s Compensation Board is likely to carry out the humane purposes of the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act and not allow the employer to cut off wage replacement benefits just because the employee failed a drug screen while he or she was off work due to the work-related injury.

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