Returning to Work After an Injury

Returning to work after an injury can help build your confidence and improve your physical recovery. It can also help you recover financially with bonuses and regular pay. However, there are several things you need to keep in mind. Communication is important throughout the process, and you should maintain regular contact with your employer, physician, and insurance adjuster to help make the transition back to work as smooth as possible.

The Process of Returning to Work

The first step in returning to work is to determine your ability to perform the duties of your job. Your doctor will send a report of your injuries to the insurance claims adjuster. In this report, your doctor will list any restrictions you need due to your injuries. Based on these restrictions, your employer will be required to provide reasonable accommodations for you, as long as they do not cause undue hardship to your employer.

Reasonable accommodations may include:

  • Reduced hours
  • Modified tasks/duties
  • Temporary responsibilities
  • Other accommodations to decrease your risk for re-injury

If your doctor has listed specific restrictions to your working ability, your employer has the responsibility to meet those restrictions. However, should your employer fail to provide the necessary accommodations, you are not required to return to work. You may submit a written document outlining the reasons you do not feel comfortable returning to work, and send it to your employer. Be sure to keep a copy for your own records.

Under California labor laws, employers must not discriminate against disabled or injured workers. If your employer cannot provide a position that meets your work restrictions, you may be able to receive temporary total disability benefits. Furthermore, if your doctor determines you will have permanent restrictions and will never be able to return to the same job you had before the injury, he or she will provide you with a written report outlining the permanent work restrictions. This can help you avoid a re-injury and increase your safety and comfort at your job.

Understanding Workers’ Compensation & Returning to Work

You may still receive workers’ compensation benefits after returning to work, if your pay is lowered due to your work restrictions. However, once you return to your previous level of pay, the workers’ compensation benefits will typically stop. It is also important to note that employers are not required by law to keep your job open while you are recovering. Thus, you should maintain regular contact with your employer to let him or her know when you are planning to return to work. You should also inform your boss of any work restrictions you may require once you return.

Specific California Laws Regarding Return to Work

Under California law, if you were injured between 2004 and 2012, you will have several options for returning to work. Your employer may offer you a job that meets your specific work restrictions, pays at least 85% of your pre-injury wages and benefits, is within a reasonable commuting distance from where you lived at the time of your injury, and lasts for at least a year.

If your injuries occurred between 2004 and 2012, you have 2 options for returning to work:

  • Modified work (your original position with work restrictions)
  • Alternative work (a different position that meets your work restrictions)

However, if your injury causes permanent partial disability, and you have no work option offered to you by your previous employer, you may be entitled to receive Supplemental Job Displacement Benefits (SJDB). This may provide from $4,000 to $10,000 for retraining and education at state-approved schools. There are timelines involved with returning to work, so it is important to understand your situation and act quickly to seek financial assistance.

If you were injured in 2013 or later, you will have 3 options for returning to work:

  • Regular work (your original position, with the same pay and benefits)
  • Modified work (your original position with work restrictions)
  • Alternative work (a different position with work restrictions)

If you have modified or alternative work, you will need to receive at least 85% of your original rate of pay. Your employer must also provide accommodations that meet your specific work restrictions, are within a reasonable commuting distance from where you lived at the time of your injury, and last for at least a year.

However, if you are not offered a position or suffer permanent partial disability, and your injury occurred after 2013, you may be eligible for SJDB. This benefit will provide a voucher of up to $6,000 to be used for training courses, education, and certification fees. It may also include up to $1,000 for computer equipment and $500 for miscellaneous expenses.

California Department of Industrial Relations’ Return-to-Work Supplement Fund

If you were injured after January 1, 2013, you may qualify for the California Department of Industrial Relations’ Return-to-Work Supplement Fund (RTWSP). You must also have received a $6,000 SJDB voucher for your injury. This fund provides $5,000 to eligible workers.

With the $5,000 RTWSP fund, injured employees may:

  • Pay off credit card debt
  • Repay loans
  • Pay past-due bills
  • Boost a savings account

In order to receive the RTWSP assistance, you must apply online at the California Department of Industrial Relations website. Your application will be reviewed, and your eligibility will be determined within 60 days of your application. If you are deemed eligible, you will receive payment within 25 days of the determination.

Passionate Representation for Injured Workers in Orange County

At Alvandi Law Group, P.C., our Orange County workers’ compensation attorneys have guided hundreds of clients to successful solutions. If you are returning to work, are suffering discrimination from your employer, or are facing legal issues regarding your workers’ comp claim, we can help. Our firm has a thorough knowledge of the California workers’ comp legal system. We can analyze your situation, discuss your options, and provide diligent representation as you seek a beneficial outcome.

Contact our firm today for a free consultation.

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