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A foundry worker’s failure to provide an adequate urine sample in a post-injury drug test does not constitute a refusal to comply with the company’s drug testing policy for workers compensation claims, the Kansas Court of Appeals has ruled.
Mark Byers was struck in the left arm by an object while grinding a piece of metal early in his shift at Coffeyville, Kansas-based Acme Foundry Inc. in May 2013. Mr. Byers was taken by ambulance to a local emergency room where he was treated for severe pain in his left elbow.
Upon his release from the hospital later that day, Mr. Byers returned to the foundry where he complied with a request to submit a post-injury urine sample using a self-contained drug test collection cup. However, he did not provide enough urine to complete the test and it was thrown away by the test administrator at Acme. Mr. Byers did not repeat the test, according to the ruling.
The foundry’s director of human resources subsequently canceled Mr. Byers’ follow-up appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, citing the incomplete drug test, the ruling said.
An administrative law judge concluded that Mr. Byers forfeited his benefits under Kansas workers comp law by failing to complete the drug test, a decision that was upheld by the state’s workers comp board.
But a three-judge panel of the Kansas appeals court reversed the prior decision on Friday.
Kansas workers comp law says that "refusal to submit to a chemical test at the request of the employer shall result in the forfeiture of" workers comp benefits if the employer "had sufficient cause to suspect the use of alcohol or drugs by the claimant or if the employer's policy clearly authorizes post-injury testing."
But the appellate court found that Mr. Byers showed no sign of being under the influence of any chemical or alcohol when he was injured, and that he expressed a willingness to submit to a drug screening while at the hospital. Therefore, the amount of urine he supplied did not constitute a refusal of Acme’s drug test, according to the ruling.
“Byers gave his employer a urine sample,” the ruling said. “His employer threw it out. We do not know if it was inadequate, as it was never tested. Byers did not refuse his employer’s post-accident drug test. His workers compensation benefits must not be forfeited.”
The court remanded the case to the administrative law judge for further proceedings to determine applicable benefits.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration could cite employers who use post-incident drug testing policies to retaliate against employees reporting injuries and illnesses under the agency’s electronic record-keeping rule, according to an agency official.