Returning to the Workplace After Injury
An injured worker who becomes medically fit to resume his or her job at the earliest possibility will have the best outcome. Such a worker would have recovered within a fairly short period from the date of injury and would not be hurt too bad financially either.
Determining Your Ability to Resume Work
An injured worker’s decision to go back to work will be impacted by the views of the physician, the claims administrator, and the employer. The worker should engage in regular and frank communication with them so everyone is on the same page. Both sides should be transparent in this situation.
If the physician is of the opinion that the injured worker is unfit to return to work while the recovery is in progress, it will not be possible to return to work. In some cases, the worker may be allowed to return to work with certain restrictions in place, provided the employer is able and willing to make the necessary adjustments. For instance, the employer may provide the worker with new or modified tools, or may change a few elements of the job.
If the physician allows the injured worker to return to the job with restrictions, but the employer is unable or unwilling to make the required adjustments, the worker will not be required to resume the job. During such time, the injured worker may be eligible for permanent disability benefits, temporary disability benefits, or supplemental job displacement benefits.
If you have questions relating to your workplace injury, please call Sacramento Personal Injury Attorney, Ed Smith, for free, friendly advice at (916) 921-6400.
Communication is Important
In several cases, the physician or the claims administrator or both may not correctly understand or appreciate the work or even a modified work schedule that could be performed by the injured worker. For this reason, it is crucial to maintain regular and honest communication with them throughout the process. They need to understand what the worker’s job entails.
The injured worker (and the attorney, if one has been hired) must actively engage in communication with the physician, the claims administrator, as well as the employer about:
- The type of work performed prior to the injury
- The current medical status and the types of work that the worker may now perform
- The types of jobs that the employer could possibly make available to the worker
Possibility of Working during Recovery
The physician will examine the injured worker following the injury, and provide a medical report to the claims administrator describing their condition. In case the physician decides that the worker is fit enough to return to work even while recovering, they should describe:
- Work restrictions, which are specific and clear limits, on the tasks involved in the job while the worker is still recovering. These work restrictions are put in place to protect the worker against any additional injury (example: refrain from performing any work that involves repeated stooping or bending)
- Alterations required, if any, in the worker’s assignments, schedule, equipment and tools, or other work conditions (example: provide for a headset to prevent any risky position of the neck and head)
- If the physician decides that the injured worker is not fit to work while undergoing recovery, they will not be required or even allowed to work.
Working with or without Restrictions
If the physician reports that the injured worker can go back to work with certain work restrictions, the employer must only assign such work that fulfills these restrictions. For instance, the employer could alter certain types of tasks or provide special equipment to enable a task. But if the employer says that such type of modified or alternative work is not available, the worker will not be required to work.
If the physician reports that the injured worker can go back to work without any restrictions, the employer in normal circumstances is required to provide the same job as well as pay that the worker had at the time the injury occurred. This can take place within a short period after the injury, or sometimes it could take place after a significant gap, once the worker’s medical condition has improved.
Employer’s Offer of Work
If the letter from the claims administrator informs that the employer is ready to offer work to the injured worker, the type of work offered should be in consistent with the work restrictions imposed by the physician. Such an offer of work could include:
- Old Job
The worker could get their regular job back, for a period lasting at least one year, and offering the same earnings as paid when the injury occurred. The new job should be at a location that is within reasonable distance from the worker’s residence at the time the injury occurred.
- Modified Job
The worker could get their old job back with some modifications that enable them to perform it. If the physician decides that the worker cannot go back to their original job, the employer may choose to offer a modified job rather than SJDB or supplemental job displacement benefits. The modified job should fulfill the specified work restrictions, pay a minimum of 85 percent of the earnings that the worker had at the time of injury, last at least one year, and be located at a reasonable distance from the worker’s residence when the injury occurred.
- Alternative Job
An alternative job refers to a new type of work with the employer. If the physician decided that the worker cannot go back to the original job they had when the injury occurred, the employer may make an offer of an alternative job rather than pay SJDB. The alternative job should fulfill the specified work restrictions, pay a minimum of 85 percent of the earnings that the worker had at the time of injury, last at least one year, and be located at a reasonable distance from the worker’s residence when the injury occurred.
In case the worker receives an offer of regular, alternative or modified job:
- The worker must respond to or accept the offer within 30 days. If they fail to do so, the employer will have the right to withdraw the offer.
- Failure to respond to the employer’s offer within 30 days or a rejection of the offer would probably result in the worker being no longer entitled to SJDB.
Employer’s Refusal to Offer Work
If the worker suffered the injury between January 1st, 2004 and December 31st, 2012, and the number of workers with the employer is at least 50, and the employer does not offer any type of work to the injured worker, in such case the weekly permanent disability benefits will increase by 15 percent. However, if all conditions remain the same, but the number of workers with the employer is below 50, in such case there will be no change in the permanent disability benefits.
If the worker suffered the injury on after January 1st, 2013, and the employer fails to offer any type of work to the injured worker, the PD benefits will remain unchanged irrespective of the size of the employer.
Relation between PD Benefits and Employer’s Offer
Several studies as well as the past experience of the state shows that the longer an injured worker remains away from work, the lesser are their chances to return to work. This, in turn, leads to greater loss of earnings as well as a poorer quality of life. The financial loss caused by not going back to work will never be fully made up by permanent disability benefits. Therefore, such provisions have been created to encourage injured workers to return to work as soon it may be medically possible.
Clearly, for some of the injured workers, this may just not be possible. They should speak to an I&A officer or seek professional advice from an attorney of their choice if they believe their circumstances are complex or they wish to explore what other options may be available in their case.
What happens if the new job is not successful?
In case the new job offered by the employer and accepted by the worker ends earlier than a year, or the worker’s disability does not allow him or her to perform the assignments or tasks the job demands, they may still be eligible for SJDB, depending on the date when the injury occurred. If the worker has such concerns, they should discuss with the claims administrator or their employer. If the issue does not get resolved, they can speak to an I&A officer, or seek professional advice from an experienced Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorney of their choice.
Experienced Workers' Compensation Attorney in Sacramento
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Workers' Compensation Attorney. Have you been injured at work? Let me help you. Call me today at 916.921.6400. I am happy to provide free and friendly advice over the phone. Just ask for me, Ed Smith. I can also be reached online at AutoAccident.com.
I’m pleased to be listed with the Million Dollar Forum.
You can peruse some of my past Verdicts and Settlements here.
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