Your Rights After Returning to Work After a Workers’ Compensation Claim
As a dedicated employee, it’s likely you don’t want to be out on workers’ compensation. Being unable to work because of physical injuries sustained on the job can result in emotional distress and conditions like depression. Additionally, going back to work will likely result in earning what you were previously making – which is probably more than your workers’ comp benefits.
As a result, you may want to rush going back to work; however, it’s important to understand what the process is for returning to work and what your rights are. This will help you make the right decision for when to return to work, so you maximize your chances of making a full recovery.
Understanding Maximum Medical Improvement
It’s likely both you and your employer are eager for you to return to work. It’s important, however, that you refrain from rushing yourself back. If your physician hasn’t cleared you or if your capabilities are still diminished because of the injury or illness you developed, returning to work has the potential to exacerbate your condition and hinder your potential for making a full recovery.
Throughout your recovery period, your physician will decide your ability to work, the possibility of light-duty, and your maximum medical improvement (MMI). The MMI refers to the point when you stop healing. Depending on the injury, this could mean being capable of completing the tasks you used to do, or it could mean adapting to a certain level of disability.
In some cases, you could be released to return to work before reaching your MMI. Your doctor may allow you to go back to your job so long as your employer provides for a modification to your schedule and duties to fit within the restrictions the doctor places on you. This could include seated-only work or a change in position until you’re able to complete your previously assigned duties.
Preparing to Return to Work in Illinois
As you recover, it’s important to stay in touch with your employer. During your leave of absence, keeping them in the loop will ensure your job remains intact. While they cannot fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, if you neglect to keep your boss update to you could have a harder time transitioning back into work when you’re ready. It’s also important to note that Illinois is an at-will employment state. This means that employers can terminate an employee for any reason, so long as it’s not an illegal one.
Your company may ask for an independent medical examination (IME) from a physician of their choosing. That doctor may say you can work at a higher physical level than outlined by your own primary care physician. If that happens, you should contact your lawyer immediately.
When you know the date you’ll be returning, your or your lawyer should inform the proper authorities. This includes your employer and the Workers’ Compensation Commission. You may have the right to partial workers’ comp benefits if your MMI isn’t equivalent to your health status prior to the accident.
To transition as easily as possible when getting back to your job, create an effective return plan. Make sure your employer understands any limitations and know how they plan to provide accommodations. Keep a clear line of communication with your employer, as this ensures that everyone knows when you can return to your former duties.
Once you return, it’s a good idea to keep a copy of your workplace restrictions on you while you’re at work. If you receive any questions from your employer, boss, or supervisor as to why you’re not doing more, you can provide them with the doctor’s restrictions. This also ensures you don’t do a task you’re not physically able to perform.
It’s important to note that in the event you’re unable to perform your previous work duties ever again or you are no longer capable of working for the same company, there are vocational rehabilitation benefits associated with workers’ comp. Your attorney can see to it that you get the support you need to get your life back on track.
Contact Schweickert Ganassin Krzak Rundio, LLP
Returning to work after an on-the-job injury doesn’t always go as smoothly as you’d like. If you worked with a lawyer to file your compensation claim, they can help you deal with any complications that arise after you receive your benefits. If you believe your employer is trying to get you to come back to work before you’re ready or your position is eliminated while you’re out on workers’ comp, you have legal rights. Our experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Schweickert, Ganassin, Krzak, Rundio, LLP can help you understand those rights and the take the appropriate action to stand up for your rights. Contact us today to learn more.