If you have suffered a work-related injury or illness and you are on workers’ compensation, it is understandable that you may be anxious to get fully recovered and back to work as soon as possible. Being out of work means less income for you and your family, and you may also be worried about how long your employer will hold your job for you. And at the end of the day, most people want to get back to a normal life, a large part of which includes going back to their jobs.
While you may be motivated to return to work, be careful about being in too much of a hurry to get back to your job. While your employer might want you back as quickly as possible, this might not always be in your best interests.
After a work-related injury, you need to make sure that you are physically able to handle all of the demands of your job again. And if you try to come back too soon, you could end up getting re-injured and making your condition worse. In the long run, this could lower your chances of ever making a full recovery and ultimately end up costing you your job and your workers’ compensation benefits.
Some employers put undue pressure on injured employees to come back to work. They might make statements like, “we really need you back, and we really hope the doctor will clear you to work again soon”. They may even tell you that they have a new position available for you if you can just get cleared by the doctor, or they may imply that your position will not be there much longer if you don’t get back to work soon.
If you are feeling any type of pressure to return to work before a doctor has cleared you, or you are feeling pressure to try to persuade the doctor to issue a clearance before you are fully healed, it would be in your best interests to speak with an experienced Alabama workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your legal rights and options.
When am I Required to Return to Work after an Injury?
The short answer is – as soon as your doctor releases you and issues a “return to work date.” Each time you see your doctor (about your injury), they usually make a notation that updates your work status. At some point, you might be released to return to work with restrictions (such as doing “light duty” or “seated only” work), or you may be released to go back to your previous job without restrictions if the doctor believes you have made a full recovery or reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).
Pay very close attention to your doctor’s evaluation and your disability and work status after each visit, because sometimes you might be released to work on paper without the doctor telling you this verbally. If you are released to work in any capacity, you must inform your employer right away. In addition, you are supposed to report to work on your “return to work”. If you disagree with your doctor’s evaluation and do not feel like you are ready to return to your job yet, the only way to avoid going back to work is to appeal their directive.
Your employer may have a “return to work” policy in place to help injured workers transition back into their jobs. This type of policy is intended to establish a work plan between the employee and the employer, which may include restricted work and reasonable accommodations that are in keeping with the recommendations of your doctor. Be sure to stay within the parameters of any work restrictions your doctor imposes – this will help ensure that you have a healthy and successful return to your job.
Can I be Fired for Not Returning to Work Quickly Enough?
While your employer cannot fire you strictly for filing a workers’ compensation claim, they are generally not required to hold your job open for you unless you have a specific employment contract that states otherwise. One exception to this is if an employee qualifies for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) due to a serious health condition. All that said, most employers will take an employee back after recovering from an injury as long as the employee stays in regular contact with them and the employer has an available position.
Contact Burge & Burge Today for Skilled Legal Representation
Suffering a work-related injury can be wrought with legal complications, and it is often advisable to retain the services of a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer to help navigate the complexities of your claim. At Burge & Burge, we have several decades of experience standing up for injured workers in Alabama and helping ensure that they receive the benefits they are entitled to.
Call our office today at 205-251-9000 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. You may also message us online or stop by our Birmingham office in person at your convenience.