North Carolina workers compensation rights hamstrung over use of legally prescribed opiates

Our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers know that in this economy, for those lucky enough to have a job, keeping that job is a priority more so now than ever before. And for those workers who suffer from chronic or short-term pain caused by injury or illness, taking legally-prescribed pain medication can be necessary simply to get through the work day.

With that said, while opiate-based pain relief can make the workday bearable, sharing that information with a boss or human resource officer can have negative consequences. A situation made even more complex if that conversation happens after a work-related accident that requires a drug screen, which reveals the presence of prescribed opiates.
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On the one hand, disabled employees who demonstrate medical need for painkillers have a right to be protected from stigma or judgment in the workplace. On the other, employers have an obligation to ensure a safe environment for workers and visitors to any job site.

What Quest Diagnostic has recently discovered is that since 2005, the number of workers who are using prescription opiates (found in drugs like codeine, morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone) has exploded. The diagnostic testing company reviewed data from 5.5 million worker urine tests and found a more than 40 percent increase in opiate positive tests since 2005 and an 18 percent climb from 2009 to 2010.

What our North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys have found most disturbing is the growing trend of employers to test workers for legally prescribed medication. More specifically, after the employee has been involved in a work-related accident, employers are calling for drug screenings. And, if the employer can prove the employee was impaired at the time of the accident, workers’ compensation benefits can be – and are – denied.

For North Carolina workers stricken with a work-related illness or chronic or short-term injury, talking with the Lee & Smith workers’ compensation attorneys can help you better understand your rights. Call us at 1-800-887-1965 or contact our law offices online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights. We fight for the rights of injured workers throughout South and North Carolina, including Hendersonville, Morganton, North Wilkesboro and Winston-Salem.

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