Sustaining any type of work injury can be incredibly difficult, whether it occurs in an abrupt accident or due to repetitive stress. The good news is that workers’ compensation benefits are available to injured workers so that they are not left with out-of-pocket medical expenses or lost wages.
Navigating the workers’ compensation claims process can be difficult, especially when you’re going up alone against employers and their insurance companies. Depending on your injury and the recovery process, your treating physician may clear you to return to work with medical restrictions.
One of the most common questions that our workers’ compensation attorneys receive is:
“What if my employer does not accommodate my medical restrictions?”
In these situations, many injured workers feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. They may fear termination for not performing their job duties but also do not want to worsen their condition. Below, we discuss what to do if your employer is not making accommodations for your situation.
Do I Need To Follow My Doctor’s Orders?
As an injured worker, you are required to follow your doctor’s medical orders. This is to show that you are doing all you can to get better, not worsen your condition.
Your doctor will lay out all actions and precautions necessary regarding your injury and returning to work. For instance, they may restrict you to:
Working less hours
Light duty work
Use of adaptive equipment
In some cases, these limitations are easily managed by both parties; your employer is able to make accommodations for your medical restrictions and you are able to go forward as you did before the injury. However, this is not always the case.
How Will a Light Duty Job Impact My Benefits?
Sometimes, a light duty job will mean a reduced pay rate compared to the job you did before your work injury. In this situation, you should be entitled to temporary partial disability.
In some cases, offering you light duty work with restrictions is more inconvenient for your employer to work around. They may not provide all the adequate accommodations you need to ensure you do not worsen your injury or sustain a new one.
Georgia workers’ compensation law does not require your company to offer you a light duty job. In most situations, your employer will have the option to either provide you with a light duty job or pay you weekly workers’ compensation benefits known as temporary total disability.
There are certain laws that could require your employer to bring you back to work. One law that applies to people who suffer from work injuries is Americans with Disabilities (ADA) requirements. Your employer may be required to make accommodations in order to provide work that meets your restrictions based on these laws.
A skilled workers’ compensation attorney in Georgia can help determine if any other laws apply to your specific situation.
Do I Have To Accept a Light Duty Job?
No one can force you to return to work for a light duty job. However, the insurance company may be able to stop your benefits immediately if you refuse suitable, light duty work that is offered to you. If possible, trying out the light duty job is most likely your best option here.
You must try the job for more than eight hours but have to stop after less than 15 work days. If you realize you cannot perform the job during this time period, the insurance company is required by law to restart your workers’ comp checks immediately.
What Happens If I Can’t Perform My Job?
Georgia workers’ compensation law focuses on attempting your light duty job for at least eight hours (or a full work day) or not more than 15 work days before deciding you can’t do the job. If you attempt the job for less than eight hours or more than 15 work days, it could be much harder to get your temporary benefits reinstated. You could have to go to court to get them restarted.
Unfortunately, Georgia has an “at-will” termination law for employees. This means that employers can fire you for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all, including you not being able to perform a certain job function.
Always contact a workers’ compensation attorney if your employer is not accommodating your medical restrictions. You are entitled to more workers’ compensation benefits than you realize.
Next Steps? Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
You shouldn’t have to worry about returning to a job that you’re medically not ready for. There are consequences when employers try to pressure injured workers into returning to work too soon, including:
The injured worker may worsen their current condition or suffer the same injury
An incident in the workplace could harm others as well as the initial individual
In the tricky and highly technical area of Georgia workers’ compensation law, it’s incredibly important to have a thorough understanding of your legal rights and how to avoid potential pitfalls.
No matter how small your work injury seems to be, it’s always in your best interest to contact a skilled and knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney. Each work injury case is unique and requires a personalized and strategic approach.
At The Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford, our Atlanta attorneys come backed by over 20 years of experience advocating on behalf of work injury victims. We will guide you through the claims process honestly and fight hard to help you obtain the benefits you need to heal.
Contact The Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford at (770) 629-9321 to schedule your free case review.