Whether or not an employer is required to bring a worker back on board after they have been on leave due to an on the job injury presents a somewhat complicated scenario that involves a variety of different state and federal laws. Unlike the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), both of which require an employer to return an employee to their original position, or a substantially similar one, workers’ compensation is an insurance program and does not, in and of itself, have any requirements that an employer return an employee to work after an injury.
The good news is that employers usually do bring back employees after an injury. It makes sense to return a worker to their job after an injury for a lot of reasons: it’s good for employee morale, it cuts down the costs associated with workers’ compensation claims, and it keeps companies from having to potentially absorb the costs to train a new employee to do a job that they already had a competent person performing. The United States Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy has a number of useful tools to help companies accomplish this, as do many trade and industry groups.
An employer is prevented by law from firing an employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, as well as reporting to OSHA about safety issues, wage violation claims, and a number of other on-the-job issues. This is only valid in cases of retaliation, however: claims against a company’s workers’ compensation insurance will likely cause the employer’s insurance premiums to increase, creating an incentive to remove workers rather than risk potential future claims—anti-retaliation clauses are intended to keep companies from intimidating employees from making claims by having ‘unwritten policies’ of firing anyone who makes a claim.
When An Employee Can Be Fired
However, an employer can prevent an employee from coming back to work after an injury for legitimate reasons in states that have at-will employment; this can be done for any reason that is not shown to be retaliatory. If the company has had layoffs or closed the branch or department a worker was in, for example, they do not typically have an obligation to bring back the injured worker at another location or in a different department. An employer can also fire an employee if their injuries will no longer allow them to do their job with reasonable accommodations.
Communication While You Are Off Work
It is generally a good idea to stay in communication with your employer while you are recovering from an injury. Calling to give them periodic updates on your condition, and what your doctor has been telling you regarding when you are expected to be able to return to work, will both show an active interest in returning to your job and allow your employer to make informed staffing decisions. Keeping them in the loop about what is going on in your life will help them continue to see you as a viable member of their staff, and go a long way towards getting them to help you return to the workforce.
Contact A Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured while at work retaining a local workers’ compensation attorney quickly can be very beneficial to your situation. A Tampa attorney will be able to help you negotiate with your company’s insurance provider to get you the compensation you need to recover from your injuries, and can assist if you feel you are, or may be, retaliated or discriminated against in your future employment. Hiring an attorney is not necessarily an adversarial stance to take, but it will show your company that you are serious about protecting your rights.