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State cuts comp benefits for drunk, high workers

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New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has signed a bill into law that will reduce workers compensation benefits for injured workers found to be intoxicated at the time of their work accident.

S.B. 214, signed into law Wednesday, says that benefits can be reduced by 10% to 90% based on the extent to which drugs or alcohol contributed to a worker's injury, according to bill language posted on the New Mexico Legislature website. A reduction in benefits is only allowed if the worker's employer has a written workplace drug and alcohol policy, the law says.

Employers will be responsible for paying for drug tests, which can include urine, blood or breath analysis, according to the bill. Workers who refuse to take a post-accident drug test or fail to release the results of a test to their employer can be denied workers comp benefits.

“If an employee is drunk or high on the job, they shouldn't be rewarded with full workers compensation benefits when they injure themselves,” Gov. Martinez said Wednesday in a statement. “It's a matter of common sense, and that's why I'm signing this legislation.”

New Mexico has attempted to pass similar legislation in the past. A 2014 bill would have denied all workers comp benefits to injured workers who were found to be intoxicated at work. Another bill submitted to the New Mexico Legislature last year also would have reduced workers comp benefits based on the level of an injured worker's intoxication.

New Mexico legislators also are considering a bill that would prevent employers from having to pay for medical marijuana under workers compensation claims.

H.B. 195, which is being considered by a New Mexico Senate committee, was proposed after the New Mexico Workers' Compensation Administration began requiring employers and insurers to reimburse injured workers for medical marijuana as of Jan. 1.

Such reimbursements were ordered after the New Mexico Court of Appeals had ruled three times since May 2014 that medical marijuana should be classified as reasonable and necessary medical care for injured workers.