According to the US Department of Labor, there were more than 2,500 workers’ compensation claims filed by Massachusetts employees in 2018. If you are among that number, chances are you want to get back to the job you had before the accident as soon as possible. Of course, it’s important that you are properly healed before making that decision. Often, that’s not until your physician or medical team determines that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) or otherwise feels that you are medically ready to work, with or without restrictions.
Once you’ve been cleared and are able to return to work, you might assume that your job will still be there for you. It’s true that your employer cannot fire you legally just because you filed a workers’ compensation claim. At the same time, it’s also true that your employer is not legally required to hold your job open for you while you’re out for a workers’ comp injury. So, what are your rights regarding job reinstatement following a work injury?
- Your employer is obligated to give you hiring preference: Yes, they are; but it may be that your former position had to be filled before you were ready to come back to work. Legally, that job can be offered to a current employee but not to outside applicants.It also assumes that in order for you to get your job back, you are physically capable of returning to your former duties. Your employer may also offer you a different, suitable job within the company for which you are physically capable and qualified.
- You are entitled to “reasonable accommodation” to perform your job duties: The federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) defines reasonable accommodation as “any change to a job, the work environment, or the way things are usually done that allows an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform job functions, or enjoy equal access to benefits available to other individuals in the workplace.” If a company has six or more employees, it is required to offer reasonable accommodation that allow you to perform the essential duties of your job as long as it does not place undue hardship on the employer. Examples of reasonable accommodation include modifying a work schedule or moving furniture to ease the way for someone with mobility or vision issues.
- You may be able to receive vocational rehabilitation assistance: If you cannot return to your original job, you may be able to obtain retraining. In particular, if your injury kept you out of work for a prolonged period of time, you should consider meeting with a counselor from the Department of Industrial Accidents’ Office of Education and Vocational Rehabilitation to determine if you are eligible for additional training.
If you feel your job-reinstatement rights have been denied, consider help from an attorney. A workers’ compensation lawyer in Beverly can answer your questions and make sure that your livelihood and financial security are protected. For more information, please contact our office online or call (978) 703-0700 to speak to our experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
There are Federal Laws that Protect Employees Who Suffer Workplace Injuries
No matter what you do for a living, on-the-job injuries can happen. That’s true whether you work in day care, health care, construction, in a warehouse, or at an airport. Massachusetts, like most other states, requires almost every employer to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage. If you have suffered an injury at work or an occupational illness, workers’ comp provides benefits to cover medical expenses and a percentage of wages lost while you are unable to work. Workers’ compensation typically provides weekly 75 percent of your weekly total temporary benefits, assuming you have “temporary partial incapacity” or 60 percent for “temporary total incapacity.”
There are circumstances in which an injury causes an impairment significant enough to be considered a disability, or where circumstances require an extended leave. That is where federal laws offer important employee protections.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The US Department of Labor states that a worker is entitled to family medical leave when there is “a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her job.” This includes an employee who:
- Is unable to work at all
- Is unable to perform any one of the essential functions of his or her position
- Must be absent from work to receive medical treatment for a serious health condition and is therefore unable to perform the essential functions of the position during the absence for treatment
While the leave is unpaid, it offers job protection and requires an employer to continue health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions that would be available to the employee were he or she actively working.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Since its inception in 1990, this act has provided important civil rights for those who have disabilities. Under the ADA, Massachusetts’ employers with six or more employees must provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees, which include:
- Modifying work schedules
- Adjusting work policies
- Modifying existing or providing appropriate equipment
- Creating an accessible workspace
- Restructuring the job
- Offering another position
A Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer can help you with your concerns
Deciding the best course of action for you and your family following a work-related injury or illness is often confusing. Consulting an attorney with experience in both federal and Massachusetts employment laws can help protect your rights and interests. Contact the office of Chisholm Law LLC online or call us at (978) 703-0700 today.
About the Author: Eric Chisholm
J. Eric Chisholm practices in the areas of Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability. He is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association & a frequent lecturer on the topic of workers’ compensation law at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education seminars.