PCI Says Ruling Threatens Ariz. Workplace Safety

August 11, 2005

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) is disappointed that the state Supreme Court in David C. Grammatica v. Arizona Industrial Commission has invalidated what PCI believed was a valuable law designed to help provide drug and alcohol-free working environments in the state, according to PCI Regional Vice President Sam Sorich.

Sorich noted that the court on Wednesday struck down the 1999 law that denied workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers who had either refused to take a drug or alcohol test or failed the test.

The court ruled that the law is unconstitutional because it deprives an injured worker of his or her constitutional rights to workers’ comp benefits.

“Virtually no injury caused in the workplace while an employee is under the improper influence of illicit drugs or alcohol is ever truly an accident,” said Sorich, pointing to a March 21, 2005, friend-of-the-court brief filed in the case by PCI.

The U.S. Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines injuries resulting from impairment by drug or alcohol use at the workplace, not as accidents, but rather as avoidable workplace hazards.

“Striking down this law sends the wrong message to Arizona residents that they may place themselves, their co-workers and the public at a significant and unjustifiable risk of serious and substantial harm by going to work drunk or high without fear of losing workers’ compensation benefits. Without this law, Arizona workplaces are more dangerous,” Sorich said.

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