Is Your Employer Failing to Accommodate Your Work Injury?
Employees injured at work have the right to collect workers’ compensation. If that injury rises to the level of a disability, the worker has additional rights, including the right to reasonable accommodation. Read on to learn about reasonable accommodations after a workplace injury, and call our dedicated California workers’ comp attorney for help with a cumulative injury workers’ comp case.
Your Employer Owes You Workers’ Comp or Modified Work
If you are injured on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation. Part of your workers’ comp coverage includes partial wage replacement for the time you spend recovering from your injuries. If you are unable to do your job because of your injuries, you can recover temporary disability benefits until you can come back to the office.
Your employer is permitted to offer you modified or “light duty” work if they can find alternative work for you, although they are not required to do so. They can also create a temporary light-duty position for you while you recover. Light duty allows you to continue working and earning your wage while injured. If you refuse light-duty work, you may lose out on your workers’ comp benefits, and your employer is not required to hold your job for you.
If an Injury Qualifies as a Disability, Reasonable Accommodation is Required
If your injury rises to the level of a qualifying disability, your employer has additional responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California law. If you can continue to work and perform the essential functions of your job with certain reasonable accommodations, your employer must provide those accommodations Refusing to offer reasonable accommodation is a form of disability discrimination.
A workplace injury may qualify as a disability if it makes basic functions such as walking, seeing, hearing, moving, sleeping, standing, breathing, or performing manual tasks more difficult. If your injury is only temporary, non-chronic, or has little to no long-term impact, it might not count as a disability.
Disability accommodation and modified/light duty under workers’ comp are different rules with different standards. You may be considered “100% disabled” under workers’ comp but able to return to work with accommodation. If your employer offers you light/modified duty or work with accommodation just for the duration of your workers’ comp claim, then ceases that accommodation once the restrictions become “permanent and stationary,” they must justify why those accommodations are no longer reasonable.
Common Forms of Workplace Accommodation
There are many accommodations that employers routinely offer disabled workers. These range in cost and convenience for the employer, but so long as the adjustment is reasonable, the employer must provide the accommodation to allow you to continue doing your job.
Common workplace accommodations for disabled workers include:
- Providing additional rest breaks
- Additional time off for medical visits
- Adjusted duties, such as less heavy lifting
- Adjustments to the work schedule
- Relocation to a more accessible location, such as the ground floor or closer proximity to a restroom
- Wheelchairs and other medical devices
- Installing a ramp or other accessibility features
- Modifying a workstation for standing or other accessibility
- Providing the option to work from home
Depending on your job duties and the nature of your injuries, one or more of these may be necessary and appropriate to allow you to continue working.
When Your Employer Can Refuse Accommodation
Your employer is required to make reasonable accommodation for your disability. Employers do not need to make unreasonable accommodations. If making an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on your employer, they can refuse to make the accommodation; if you are unable to do your job without such accommodation, your employer would not be obligated to keep you on staff.
Whether a needed accommodation would impose an undue hardship depends upon a number of factors. The degree of difficulty, the cost to the employer, the skill of the worker, the size and financial flexibility of the company, and other factors play a role. For example, rebuilding an entire elevator might constitute an undue hardship due to prohibitive cost, while allowing a worker to take additional rest breaks throughout the day would almost certainly not constitute a hardship.
If you suffer a work-related injury or disability, you need zealous, effective legal help to maximize your compensation. The dedicated California workers’ comp legal team at Invictus Law is ready to help. We’re board-certified specialists in workers’ compensation. You don’t have to pay unless we recover on your behalf. Call us today for a consultation.