Following a work-related injury, the injured worker will need to take many steps, including paperwork and obtaining medical treatment. In most cases, an injured worker will want to return to work as soon as possible. Employees want to continue to financially support themselves and their families, as well as avoid the depression and other unfavorable side effects that can set in from staying at home for too long. However, even if a worker is on the road to recovery, there may be restrictions or limitations on their ability to perform typical duties.
Obtaining medical treatment is obviously one of the first actions that the injured employee will need to take following a work-related injury. The injured worker’s treating physician will evaluate the injury and determine when or even if the worker can return to work. The physician is likely to clear the injured worker for work before he or she is totally healed. In these cases, the physician is likely to impose work restrictions or limitations. These will allow the injured employee to return to work while still avoiding the risk of re-injury as much as possible. Some of the common restrictions seen for workers who are temporarily disabled are no lifting more that particular weight, no standing for longer than a particular duration, or no climbing. Clearly the restriction will vary depending on the injury. The treating physician needs to promptly communicate the work restrictions to the claims administrator to make sure that the restrictions and limitations are communicated properly to the employer. The employer is obligated to comply with the restrictions imposed by the physician. In the event that the job cannot accommodate the restrictions, then the employee may have no choice but to continue to receive temporary disability benefit is until he or she is healthy enough to return to work without those restrictions. In the case of a permanent disability, the employer needs to try to permanently modify the job to accommodate the permanent limitation. When that is impossible, the employer will need to find another job to offer the employee that provides at least 85% or more of the same salary and benefits as the former job.
Employers should note that California law strictly prohibits employers from taking retaliatory action against an injured worker simply because of the limitations imposed. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for the restrictions imposed by the employee’s treating physician.
If you have questions about workers’ compensation and your rights and responsibilities as a business owner, contact us today. We can talk to you about your business and the workers’ compensation process.