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Workers Compensation Benefits and Returning to Work in California

Workers Compensation Benefits and Returning to Work in Orange County

A work-related injury or illness means that you must take time off of work to recover. This period of time is crucial in terms of a healthy and speedy recovery. This time is meant to allow workers to properly seek treatment and to heal. With workers’ compensation, workers are allowed to take this time without worrying about their jobs or the amount of wages they would lose.

Once this important phase of recovery has passed, you may find yourself in another important phase: returning to work. Though it may seem like a simple thing (and it should be) returning to work must be done in a way that takes into account your health and your ability to handle the job. Often, this phase is planned out alongside your doctor and employer. There must be agreement with all parties as to when and how you will return to work. However, sometimes this process can become difficult to handle and tough to work out amongst all parties.

At Orange County Workers’ Compensation Attorney, we are here to help you in this crucial phase. With a highly qualified staff of attorneys and access to many useful resources, we aim to provide you with the proper assistance with cases involving workers’ compensation.

What to Know About Returning to Work After a Work-Related Injury

Under workers’ compensation laws in California, if you have sustained a worker-related injury or illness, you must be allowed to take time off to seek out the proper treatment and to recover. Once you have done this, and you are able, you can return to work. However, this part takes a bit of planning. When it comes to returning to work, you must consult several people to figure if you are able to do so. These people include:

  • You doctor
  • Your employer, supervisor, or manager
  • Your claims administrator
  • Your attorney

By keeping in contact with all of these figures, you can properly plan out when and how you will return to work. This can mean making sure that you are ready and healthy enough to handle work, figuring out at what level you can operate, determining whether or not you need modified hours or not, and figuring if you need to do a different type of job. With all of these individuals, there can be a proper decision on your return to work.

Every workers’ case can vary. So, it is always important to consult your doctor, your employer, and your claims administrator to determine what kind of return to work plan fits you and your case.

Can I Return to Work During Recovery?

It is possible to return to work while also recovering from a work-related injury. However, this is determined by the severity of your injury or illness, and on your doctor’s, or health care provider’s, approval.

After you have sustained an injury or illness while working, you should proceed to consult your doctor or physician on determining the severity of your case. Once you are properly examined, your doctor or physician should send a report to your claims administrator on your health and working ability. From here, your doctor will determine if you are fit or not to return to work.

If you are allowed to return to work during your recovery period, your doctor may set out specific work limits and restrictions to ensure your well-being. These restrictions are often created out of a dialogue with you, your employer, and your doctor about the physical duties and demands of your job. It is important to present a full and factual representation of your job to your doctor so that they can properly determine what you can and cannot do while recovering—this is to protect your health!

Along with this, your doctor may require certain changes, or modifications, in order to return to work while recovering. This could be changes in your schedule, the assignments you receive, the equipment you handle, and in or working conditions. If your employer does not comply to the restrictions and limits outlined by your doctor, then you are not required to work. However, if your doctor or physician allows you to return to work without restrictions, your employer can require you to work (as long as it’s the same job and with the same pay).

Examples of working modifications include:

  • Setting a restriction on how many pounds you can lift and handle while on the job.
  • Setting a limitation on the number of hours you may work.
  • Providing a neck brace, or rest, to help a head or neck injury.

All of this is subject to your doctor’s approval. If your doctor does not deem you fit to return to work, then you are not required to work under California’s workers’ compensation laws.

Violating Work Restrictions

If you do return to work with specific restrictions, the requirements set out by your doctor or physician must be met by your employer. If they are not met, then you are not required to work or take an assignment.

Again, your return to work after a work-related injury must come from a discussion between your employer, doctor, and claims administrator. The terms of your return must be clearly laid out, this including any restrictions on the work you can handle. In this sense, your employer should be informed of any restrictions or limitations set out by your doctor. However, if you do find any work restrictions are violated, remind your employer and tell them about what does not meet the requirements. If your employer continues to violate any work restrictions, you do not have to continue working.

Under California Labor Code Section 132a, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees who are injured. This can also include to mean that an employer cannot fire, or threaten to fire, a worker who has an injury/ailment related to their job. In terms of violating work restrictions, your employer cannot fire, or threaten to fire, you into doing work that does not met the requirements set out by your doctor.

If your employer cannot give you work or an assignment that meets your work restrictions, your claims administrator must pay temporary disability benefits until you can work again. This is a way to compensate for the lost wages and benefits during your period of recovery.

Returning to Work Without Fully Recovering

You may return to work even if your injury has not fully recovered; however, it does depend on whether or not your employer can provide you with a job that is suitable to your condition.

Workers with Injuries Sustained in 2013 or Later

For workers who have sustained an injury in 2013 or later, if you have a permanent partial disability, your claims administrator must send you a “Notice of Offer of Regular, Modified, or Alternative Work” after being notified by your doctor or physician. Should you receive an offer of work from your employer, they will be notified of your status.

As such, the employer must offer a job that you are fit to handle, and one that:

  • Meets any work restrictions placed by your doctor
  • Lasts for at least 12 months
  • Is within a reasonable distance from your home at the time of the injury

Furthermore, the job offered may present either regular, modified, or alternative work.

  • Regular work is the same job that you had at the time of the work-related injury. It must have the same wages and the same benefits at the time of your injury.
  • Modified work is your old job with the work restrictions placed by your doctor. It must pay at least 85% of the wages and the benefits you received at the time of your injury.
  • Alternative work is work that is different from your old job that meets the work restrictions placed by your doctor. It must pay at least 85% of the wages and the benefits you received at the time of your injury.

If your employer does offer work that meets all of requirements for regular, modified, or alternative work, then you have 30 days to accept the offer. If you do not give an answer within 30 days, then your employer may withdraw the job offer. Also, your claims administrator may not offer you supplementary job displacement benefits (SJDB) whether or not you accept or decline the work offer.

If your employer fails to offer you work that meets the requirements for regular, modified, or alternative work, then your claims administrator may send SJDB, a voucher that would allow you to pay for the resources to seek other employment. Again, this applies to workers with a permanent partial disability.

Workers with Injuries Sustained Between 2004 and 2012

For workers who have sustained an injury between 2004 and 2012, have a permanent partial disability, and who have received an offer of work, you will receive a “Notice of Offer of Modified or Alternative Work” from your claims administrator within 30 days after your last temporary disability (TD) repayment. Again, this applies to workers who have sustained a permeant partial disability as reported by your doctor or physician.

For workers under these conditions, the work offered must pay at least 85% of wages and benefits of your old job when you developed an injury, meet the proper work restrictions, last for at least 12 months, and be within a reasonable distance from your home. The offer of work must also meet the conditions of modified or alternative work as described above.

If it the job offer meets all of the requirements, then you have 30 days to give an answer. If you do not give an answer within 30 days, the employer may withdraw the offer. Furthermore, whether or not you accept or decline the offer of work, your claims administrator may not send you supplementary job displacement benefits (SJDB). 

If you do not receive a work offer that meets the requirements, and you do not return to your old employer within 60 days of your last TD repayment, then you may be given a supplementary job displacement benefits voucher from your claims administrator to pay for expenses related to seeking other employment.

What Happens When I Am Not Given Work to Return to?

As a worker returning to work, you have a right to continue working under your old employer. Again, that employer must provide work that can accommodate your work restrictions if you have any. Yet, it is important to remember that sometimes an employer may not be able to provide such an offer depending on circumstances, such as business realities. Other times, your employer may offer work that you may not personally like; however, it is still an offer that meets the requirements. If this is the case, your employer is cannot be liable if you refuse the offer.

However, sometimes after a worker has sustained a work-related injury or illness, the employer may not offer work that meets work restrictions or any work at all. If this is the case, the employer is violating workers’ compensation laws in California. Under California Labor Code Section 132a, it is illegal to discriminate against an injured employee, or to fire, or threaten to fire, an employee because of their injury. If the employer is found guilty of violating this law, then they must pay an increased compensation to the worker of up to $10,000. Also, the employer is liable for the workers’ expense and for his or her lost wages and benefits.

Usually, under workers’ compensation, you may be given supplementary job displacement benefits (SJDB) if you are not given proper and accommodating work after you have sustained a permanent partial disability. With SJDB, you will receive a voucher that will help pay for resources and services that can help you find another job that can fulfill your work restrictions.

Remember: an employer must always try to proper the proper conditions and accommodations to a worker when returning from injury or illness recovery. If they fail to do so, they may be penalized under California law.

Things to Remember When Returning to Work After an Injury

After sustaining a work-related injury while doing a job, a worker must remember that there is a process that must be followed when returning to work. The process and steps to be made may differ from case to case depending on the injury and the severity of the injury or illness. Important things to remember include:

  • Always inform your employer about injury or illness as soon as possible
  • Consult your doctor about your injury and if you can return to work
  • Determine the details of your return with your employer, doctor, and claims administrator
  • If applicable, ensure work restrictions are met by your work
  • If you are not offered reasonable work, you are not required to return to work

As a part of the workers’ compensation process, returning to work is just as important the period of recovery. With the help of your employer, doctor, and claims administrator, you may plan out a return to work that ensures you are properly accommodated for your condition and your rights are protected as a worker.

Remember, under California Labor Code Section 132a, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee who is injured or ill. This includes a refusal to offer work to the injured worker, firing the injured worker, or threatening to fire injured worker. If such discrimination does occur, then the employer may be penalized and can be liable for worker’s compensation (a maximum $10,000), expenses, and lost wages and benefits.

All of these laws and steps are made to protect your rights and to ensure your well-being as a person. In cases of work-related injuries and illness, your employer and health care provider should do what it right for you, and provide you with the proper information on workers’ compensation and the process of returning to work. If you feel that any of these aspects of returning to work are not followed, you may receive assistance from an attorney to ensure these rights are met.

Finding a Workers Compensation Attorney Near Me

As a worker in the state of California, you have rights. This includes the right to fair compensation when you are injured or inflicted with illness while at work. Also, this includes the right a proper and accommodating return to work after injury or illness. If you have sustained an injury or illness because of your work, you should not have to worry about the status of your employment—your health should be the priority. At Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney, we aim to ensure that you are guaranteed these rights if you have become injured.

If you find yourself in a situation in which you feel your rights have been violated as a worker, please do not hesitate to contact our workers compensation attorney at 949-423-3212 so that we can review your case today. With our team of highly knowledgeable attorneys and staff members, we will fight to make sure you are properly compensated and accommodated should you have become injured or ill.

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