When a person has suffered an injury at work and had to take time off to recover from it, their ability to return to their job is often the last thing on their mind. However, whether or not a company is legally required to allow an injured worker to return to their employment with the company after they have taken medical leave for an on the job injury is actually a somewhat complicated scenario that is determined by a number of different state and federal statutes. Workers’ compensation, unlike the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FLMA) or the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), that create legal requirements for employers to provide employees with their original, or substantially similar employment after a covered leave of absence, is actually a system of insurance programs that do not actually create a requirement for companies to return an employee to work after an absence due to an on the job injury.
However, employers more often than not do return employees to work after an injury. Keeping an employee who has been injured at work on staff makes financial sense for companies for a lot of different reasons: it can reduce the long term expenses that come with a workers’ compensation claim, it saves the time and money involved with hiring and training a new employee to take over a job that the company already has effective coverage for, and it demonstrates that the company is committed to its workers, which is good for morale. There are a variety of useful tools available to companies to assist with these transitionary periods, provided by both the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, and through many industry, trade, and business groups.
Anti-Retaliation and Legal Terminations
Employers are legally prevented from terminating employees in retaliation for exercising a wide variety of their legal rights, including filing a workers’ compensation claim, reporting safety and workplace environment violations with OSHA, wage violation claims, and many other employment issues. These laws, however, are only in place to prevent retaliation: they are intended to prevent employers from attempting to intimidate their employees into not making claims by having an ‘unspoken understanding’ that employees who file claims will be terminated. An employer can legally terminate an employee after an on the job injury or workers’ compensation claim for any reason that cannot be shown to be retaliation. This can be particularly problematic in states that practice at-will employment because in an at-will jurisdiction an employee can be terminated without the company being required to state a reason for the discharge. Common reasons for an employee being terminated after an on the job injury include things like the company having layoffs while the employee is on leave, or in cases where the employee’s injury would prevent them from being able to do their job with reasonable accommodations.
Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Hiring an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer is not necessarily an adversarial position to take after you have been injured in an on the job accident, and it will demonstrate to your employer that you are serious about protecting your rights. If you or a loved one have suffered a work related injury in or around Greenville, South Carolina, the experienced legal staff at the Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm is here to help you get back on the road to recovery.