A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can help employees decide when and whether to return to work after a workplace injury
Employees who suffer from a workplace injury are entitled to medical care that is paid by their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company, whether or not the injured worker misses time from work. If the injury causes the injured worker to miss more than three days of work, or if the injured worker is hospitalized overnight, the insurance company must provide temporary disability benefits.
An injured worker who misses three days of work will only receive temporary disability payments if a doctor determines that the she is unable to do her usual work because of the injury. That means an injured worker cannot simply decide to take time off after being injured and still receive workers’ compensation benefits. The time off must be medically necessary in the judgment of the treating physician.
Working After a Workplace Injury
If a treating physician determines that an injured worker cannot perform the customary duties of his job, the employer has the option to assign the injured worker to do modified or alternative work. Taking time off work after a workplace injury therefore, may depend on whether or not the employer offers modified or alternative work that the injured worker can perform.
Before an injured worker accepts reassignment to different job duties, she should determine whether or not she is able to perform those duties. The injured worker should be familiar with the limitations or restrictions that the treating physician has placed on her. Depending on the nature of the injury, the physician might impose restrictions concerning the maximum weight that can be lifted, how long she can stand, the maximum number of hours per day that can be worked, or prohibitions against bending, climbing stairs, or other physical activities.
If the employer offers work that satisfies the restrictions imposed by the treating physician, the injured worker must accept that work. If the injured worker fails to accept the work, the employer may be able to terminate the injured workers’ employment.
If the employer insists that the injured worker perform work that is contrary to the treating physician’s medical restrictions, he should immediately contact a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney. In many cases, negotiations with the employer and the workers’ compensation insurance claims administrator, in consultation with the treating physician, will result in job duties or a work schedule that is consistent with the injured workers’ restrictions.
If the injured worker disagrees with the treating physician about his ability to work, he should obtain legal advice from a workers’ compensation lawyer in Santa Rosa. It may be possible to obtain a second medical opinion, but since time limits may apply, the injured worker should obtain legal advice promptly to avoid losing that right.
If the injured worker qualifies for Temporary Disability Benefits and is not offered work that is consistent with medical restrictions, she cannot legally be fired for remaining off work due to a workplace injury. Nor can the injured worker legally be fired for declining to return to work under conditions that would violate restrictions imposed by the treating physician.
An injured worker who is fired for declining work that would violate the treating physician’s work restrictions should consult with a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer. Employers face stiff penalties when they fire employees in violation of California’s workers’ compensation laws. Injured workers’ who have been unlawfully fired may be entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement of lost wages, as well as other remedies.
Returning to Work
If the treating physician determines that the workplace injury has fully healed, the workers’ compensation insurance company will stop paying Temporary Disability Benefits and the employee will to return to work. In most cases, the employer must make the former job available at the same rate of pay.
If the treating physician determines that the injury will never fully heal, the injured worker should work with a workers’ compensation attorney in Santa Rosa to make a claim for Permanent Disability Benefits. In the meantime, the treating physician will decide what work the employee may be capable of performing. The employer, the insurance claims adjuster, the physician, and the injured workers’ attorney may all work together to determine if the employee can return to his original job (with or without modifications) or if other permanent work is available that the employee is capable of performing.
An employer can offer a permanently disabled worker the opportunity to return to his or her former job, and pay, if he is capable of performing all of the job duties. If the job duties need to be modified to accommodate the disability, the employer can offer a return to the job as modified, or offer a suitable alternative job, at a rate of pay that is at least 85% of the wage paid before the injury.
If an employer makes one of those offers and will allow the injured worker to work in that job for at least 12 months, the injured worker must accept the job offer or risk being fired. The injured worker however, would still be entitled to receive Permanent Disability Benefits, but would not be entitled to receive a Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit.
If no modified or alternative job offer is made, the injured worker will receive a Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit, which is essentially a job retraining benefit.
Legal Advice about Returning to Work
Deciding whether to return to work after a workplace injury can be complicated. To insure your rights are protected, get legal advice from a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer at Kneisler & Schondel. You can contact us by calling (707) 542-5132 or by submitting our online contact form.