Returning back to work after an injury can be a nerve wracking experience. You know that your employer’s interests and your interests may not be aligned.
Yet if you don’t return to work when you are cleared to do so you jeopardize your job, your workers compensation benefits, and any unemployment benefits you could receive if, for whatever reason, your job disappears through no fault of your own.
Here’s what you need to know.
You have the right to have your restrictions respected.
Talk to your doctor about what your old job entailed so that he can make the most useful list of restrictions possible. We recommend getting a written acknowledgement from your employer to indicate that they understand these restrictions and are able to work with them.
Make sure you get them in writing. Carry copies of the restrictions with you.
Don’t be afraid to hand them to your supervisor whenever you are asked to violate them, and don’t be afraid to document each incident of violation.
You have the right to a light duty posting if one exists, or to reasonable accommodations.
Employers do not have to provide a light duty posting if no light duty posting exists, but if one does or they can reasonably accommodate it than they must do so. There is no guarantee that the light-duty role will be full time or at your old rate of pay, but you must take it or jeopardize your benefits. Sometimes you can receive partial benefits while working the light duty job.
For some employees, the light duty job is going to be a stopping point on the way to a new job.
For others it may be possible to do their old job, but with accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that employers must offer reasonable accommodations when suggested.
You have the right to remain free from retaliation.
Your employer may not discriminate against you for being disabled or for having been on workers compensation. They are not allowed to fire you in retaliation.
This doesn’t mean that they can’t come up with “legitimate reasons” to let you go like downsizing, restructuring, backfilling your position or terminating you “for cause.”
The truth of the matter is that workers compensation will eventually spell the end of your relationship with most employers, especially if you have a settlement. They don’t want to do open the door for you to reopen your case. Giving up your job is often a condition of a workers compensation settlement.
Before taking any action, it is wise to consult with a workers compensation attorney who can advise you as to your wisest course of action.