Unfortunately, in many workers’ comp cases, the employer’s interests may be at odds with the injured employee’s interests. As an example, most employers want to get their injured employee back to work as soon as possible. This might not be in the best interests of the employee for a variety of reasons. If you have been injured on the job, you must wait until you are fully healed and physically ready to handle the demands of your job, or you could end up being re-injured and potentially never making a full recovery. If your employer is pushing you to return to work before your doctor has cleared you, you might need to speak to an experienced Georgia workers’ comp injury attorney. Some employers may tell their employee they won’t have to return to full duty if they come back, others may actually issue veiled threats about the possibility of being fired if the employee doesn’t hurry back to work.
As much as you—and your employer—may want you to return to work, pushing your doctor for a medical release or coming back before you are physically able can, in the end, damage not only your health but your workers’ compensation claim as well. Returning before you are able could render you unable to perform your regular job duties which could, in turn, lead to your employer letting you go. You would then no longer be receiving temporary total disability benefits under workers’ compensation but would be in less than perfect physical condition while attempting to find a new job. The only way you should ever accept a full medical release from your doctor is if you have actually reached your maximum medical improvement level. Pestering your doctor to say you are 100 percent healed can be extremely detrimental if it turns out you are still suffering from your injuries.
ARE THERE BENEFITS TO RETURNING TO WORK?
If—and only if—you are completely healed, then a return to an active work life could actually help you get better more quickly. Returning to work will obviously increase your income and benefits. You may have friendships at your place of employment, and having those friends in your corner can also help your mental status. Further, if you were in line for a promotion or pay raise, being absent from work can significantly hinder that process, or could stall it out altogether.
CAN YOU BE FIRED FOR NOT RETURNING TO WORK QUICKLY?
Employers are not required by law to keep your job open for you, although most employers will take their injured workers back, so long as you keep in contact with your employer regarding when you may be able to return to work. That being said, your employer cannot fire you simply because you filed a workers’ compensation claim. Future employers are not legally allowed to ask whether you have ever filed a workers’ compensation claim, and cannot deny you a job because of a past workers’ comp claim.
WHAT IF YOUR DOCTOR CLEARS YOU AND YOU FAIL TO RETURN TO WORK?
If your doctor has legitimately cleared you to return to work, you must do so unless you successfully appeal the directive. If you are returning to your work with a partial disability, you may request reasonable accommodations or you may be required to take a different job within your company. If you are paid less because you had to take a different job, you may qualify for reduced-earnings benefits through workers’ compensation. You deserve an advocate who will fight for your rights following a work-related injury.