After a worker sustains a work-related injury in the course and scope of their employment duties, the worker will need to obtain medical treatment. This treatment varies depending on the type of injury, and can range from physical therapy to surgery to acupuncture. The workers’ compensation process will also require that the employee submits to extra testing to provide information to determine issues such as whether the worker is permanently or temporarily disabled and the extent of the disability. One examination the worker may have to submit to is called the Functional Capacity Evaluation.
The Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is an examination performed by a physician, physical therapist, or other medical professional to measure the level of the injured worker’s functioning. The purpose of the test is to evaluate and document the injured worker’s ability to perform, or not perform, the essential job-related tasks. The physician will then review the information and evaluate several different areas. These areas include the demands of the job, when the employee should return to work, whether the employee can realistically return to the same job he or she held before sustaining injury, the employee’s abilities demonstrated when not on the job, the potential required rehabilitation or medical intervention. Employees may be asked to submit to either a Job Specific FCE, which will determine the employee’s ability to perform the specific tasks for the job they were in at the time they were injured, or a general-purpose FCE, which is typically used when the job the employee was in at the time of injury either no longer exists or has been filled during the employee’s absence. After the FCE is completed, the physician or medical professional will prepare a particular report reflecting their findings.
The FCE will serve as a touchstone for insurance adjusters, attorneys, and employers to all determine whether an employee is ready to return to work and in what capacity. The FCE can often serve as a reference when determining the employee’s disability rating. It is possible that in the future, another treating physician will not be able to assign a higher disability rating than what is found in the FCE. The employer also needs to have a comprehensive understanding of the contents of the FCE. The FCE will tell the employer what types of accommodations may be necessary for the employee to return to work. Employers are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to employees when they return to work during a workers’ compensation case.
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