On the job injuries can occur in any field or occupation. While many of these injuries require multiple days off work in order to get treatment and to ensure recovery, in other cases your injury may not prevent you from returning to work as quickly as the next day. It is important to follow the recommendations of your physician when it comes to deciding on the right time to get back on the job after a work related injury. At the same time, financial considerations often come into play in this decision. It can take weeks or even months for a workers’ compensation disability claim to be approved, and workers have not always accrued enough paid sick leave to make an extended at home recovery possible. While taking time off work is not required to claim benefits through the California workers’ compensation program, you will want to be aware of your rights as well as your employer’s obligations when it comes to returning to work after an injury.
Returning to Work After An Injury
According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over three million workers were hurt on the job in 2014, and slightly over half of these injuries were severe enough to require multiple days off work in order to recover. The remaining workers suffered injuries that did not impact their ability to perform their work related duties, or were able to return to work right away, but assigned to different types of tasks or under job restrictions.
Once you have suffered an on the job injury, have reported it to your employer, and have sought medical care, the decision on whether or not to return to work is no longer yours alone. According to the Division of Workers’ Compensation, under chapter six of California Injured Workers’ Guide, the people who will be involved in your decision on when and under what circumstances you can return to work will be:
- Your primary doctor or medical provider;
- Your employer, supervisor, or others in management where you work; and
- Your employer’s insurance company.
If you have retained the services of a workers’ compensation lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will also want a say on how soon you get back on the job, as well as the types of duties you will be required to perform.
Job Restrictions and Transfers After A Work Related Injury
According to the Division of Workers’ Compensation, your primary physician will issue a medical report based on your injuries which will outline the following information:
- When your doctor feels it would be safe for you to return to work;
- General restrictions on your activities or the types of duties you can perform; and
- Recommended changes to work scheduling and assignments.
If you disagree with your doctor’s assessment of your injuries or of the duties you can or cannot perform, you must notify your workers’ compensation claims administrator immediately. Going against the advice of your physician can result in your workers’ compensation claim being denied.
Returning To Work With Restrictions
Under Chapter Six of the Injured Worker’s Guide, if your physician has recommended that you can return to work with restrictions on job duties or scheduling, your employer must operate under these restrictions. This may require changing certain tasks, reassigning you to other job areas, or limiting your schedule. If your employer is not able to give you work that meets these restrictions, you will not be allowed to return to work, and your claims administrator must approve you for temporary total disability payments.
Returning To Work Without Restrictions
If your physician releases you to return to work without restrictions, your employer is obligated to give you the same job with the same pay as you had before you were injured. According to the DWC, failing to do so would be in violation of Section 132a of the California Labor Code and could result in your employer facing criminal charges as well as being liable for damages.
Making the decision on when and under what circumstances to return to work in the aftermath of a job related injury can have a detrimental impact on your health as well as the type and amount of workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to receive. Before deciding on a course of action, it is always best to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney first to ensure your rights are protected.