On a 4-3 vote, the Ohio Supreme Court has struck down a state law that said people seeking workers’ compensation benefits must prove that drugs or alcohol found in their systems did not cause their injury. Prior to the law, enacted in 2000, employers had to prove that drugs or alcohol caused the injuries if they wanted to contest worker’s comp claims. The 2000 law also mandated that workers who refused to take drug tests would be considered to have tested positive.
But a narrow majority of the state Supreme Court found that the law violated protections against “unreasonable seizures” in both the Ohio and the US constitutions. “The right at stake, to be free from unreasonable searches, is so fundamental as to be contained in our bill of rights,” wrote Justice Pfiefer for the majority.
The new law did not fit within US Supreme Court guidelines for what justifies “suspicionless searches,” Pfiefer wrote. “It is not directed at a segment of the population with drug use known to be greater than that of the general population. It does not target a segment of industry where safety issues are more profound than in other industries. The searches allowed involve everyone who works in Ohio,” Pfiefer continued.
The ruling will make it more difficult for employers to challenge workers’ compensation claims filed by workers who tested positive for alcohol or drugs. According to the Toledo Blade, business groups were “infuriated” by the ruling. The Blade reported that Republicans and business interests may try to pass the same law again this year in the hope that a newly constituted Ohio Supreme Court—tilted more heavily toward the GOP after the November elections—would rule differently.