Should Drunk Workers Who Get Hurt Be Entitled to Workers’ Comp?

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The workers’ comp system is based on tradeoffs:

  • Workers give up the right to sue their employers for guaranteed compensation for their work-related injuries; and
  • Employers avoid having to defend themselves in lawsuits in exchange for paying workers’ comp premiums.

But if a worker shows up to work drunk and gets injured because he’s inebriated, should his injury be covered by workers’ comp? Apparently, in Manitoba, the worker’s drunkenness  doesn’t matter much for workers’ comp purposes.

Manitoba’s Policy on Drunk Workers

According to a column in the Winnipeg Sun,  in Manitoba, no matter how intoxicated you are at the workplace, if your drunkenness contributes to a workplace injury, the workers’ comp board will pay you full benefits, including loss of wages and any other injury related pay-outs. And it’s been going on for years.

“It’s set up to be no-fault, kind of like Medicare,” explained WCB spokesman Warren Preece. “It’s part of our system.” In fact, there’s actually a written WCB policy on “drunkenness and intoxication” that says:

“The board will generally accept claims where a worker, who is drunk or intoxicated, suffers personal injury as a result of an accident arising out of and in the course of employment only where the accident represents a risk of employment which the worker was less able to avoid due to intoxication. However, where the accident is shown to be due solely to the drunkenness or intoxication of the worker, the claim is not accepted.”

But how exactly do they distinguish between the two?

It’s unclear how many claims are handed out each year to drunken workers who injure themselves. But WCB confirmed that it does happen but claims it doesn’t happen very often. However, the Board doesn’t track claims by intoxicated workers, so how does it know the frequency of such claims?

The columnist rightfully noted that this policy undercuts Manitoba’s attempt to promote safe workplaces and that ultimately employers bear the cost for claims by drunk workers.

He suggests that workers’ comp be like car insurance. If you wrap your car around a tree and you’re convicted of impaired driving, you don’t get a penny from your insurance. If you’re found 100% responsible for the crash, you get no benefits at all—no income replacement or injury-related claims. And if you’re drinking and driving, cause a collision where you’re 100% responsible and your wife or husband dies in the passenger seat, you don’t get a death benefit, either.

Tell Us What You Think

So do you think that workers who are drunk when they get injured on the job should still be entitled to workers’ comp?