You could never shake the nagging thought.
Weeks on the mend from a workplace injury left you feeling incredibly frustrated and unfortunately, poorer for the experience. Rapidly piling up medical bills left you in a deep financial hole because you no longer generated income from your job. What started as immense frustration eventually turned into a different type of emotion.
Your employer cooperated with your request to receive workers’ compensation, but your employer was not as agreeable when it came time to welcoming your back to work.
If you received workers’ compensation in California to cover the costs of medical bills and lost wages caused by missed time at work, you eventually want to return to work in some capacity. Does your employer have the legal obligation to ensure you get your old job back? Can you refuse to work your old position because the extent of your workplace injuries makes it difficult to complete ordinary tasks? Does your employer have to offer you an alternative position that accommodates your newfound set of job skills?
These are all valid questions that frequently surround a workers’ compensation claim.
Getting Your Old Job Back
Despite being a leader in enacting groundbreaking laws, unlike many other states, California has not passed a law that requires employers to give employees their old jobs back after a work-related injury.
The state also does not require employers to find employees new jobs that match their newly formed skill sets.
Nonetheless, California employers can find themselves in a legal bind when it comes to the state’s discrimination statutes. According to Section 132A of the California Workers’ Compensation Code, employers that terminate an employee because of a work-related injury have broken the law. This means that although California employers do not have to rehire an injured employee, the inability to present a valid reason for not rehiring an employee can lead to a discrimination lawsuit.
Providing Reasonable Accommodations
Depending on the severity of a work-related injury, an employee might be eligible to take advantage of the legal protections written into the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As a federal law, the ADA ensures that employers that have at least 15 employees provide reasonable accommodation for workers that live with one or more disabilities. A similar law passed in California called the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) accomplishes the same accommodations objective that is written into the ADA.
Both the ADA and FEHA define a disability as a mental and/or physical impairment that significantly diminishes one or more of life’s major activities, such as holding down a job. If you suffer from a debilitating injury in the workplace and the injury makes you eligible for disability pay, your employer is required by state and federal law to accommodate your mental and/or physical limitations in the workplace.
Receiving Leave for Family and/or Medical Reasons
Two laws help injured employees recover from their work-related injuries by giving them time off from work. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) both require employers that have a minimum of 50 employees on payroll to provide employees up to 12 weeks of leave from a workplace because of a serious health issue. If you suffered a serious work-related injury, you can invoke either the FMLA or CFRA to come back to your previously held job.
Retaliation is Against the Law
California employment law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees that miss work because they are recovering from a work-related injury. One way employers retaliate against employees is by refusing to permit employees to reclaim their old jobs. In more specific legal terms, California employers cannot discriminate against an employee for following the protections listed in the state’s employment laws.
When Your Employer Refuses Your Return to Work Request
If you have recovered from one or more work-related injuries, you have the right to request to get your old job back. Employers that refuse to give employees their old jobs back after a work-related injury might have violated a California or federal discrimination law. Even if your employer balks at giving your job back after a workplace injury, your employer has the option to approve a workers’ compensation claim that includes money to pay for retraining in another position.
Make sure you receive all the protections granted by federal and California statutes by contacting a California employment attorney to schedule a free case evaluation.