When a person is injured at work and receiving benefits, they may wonder if their job is protected and will be there when they return. While most people understand that workers’ comp continues to pay a salary and provide healthcare to an employee who was injured on the job, they may not know if their job will still be waiting for them after they recover.
Workers’ Comp Rules for Job Reinstatement
In many states, workers’ comp only provides salary and healthcare benefits during the time an injured worker is off work and does not require an employer to guarantee the job will be there when the employee returns. In Rhode Island, however, business owners are required to reinstate an injured worker to their former job for up to one year from the day that worker was injured, even if another worker was hired to take over for the injured worker.
Even with this legal protection in place, many employers and their insurance companies may use the promise of settlements, the confusing complexity of the system, or even the threat of a prolonged court battle to prevent workers who were injured on the job from returning to their former position. For those employees who hope to return to work following an injury, there are some important things to be aware of:
Providing evidence of injury.
One way employers and insurance companies attempt to prevent a worker from returning to their previous job following an injury is to argue that the injury was not the result of a work-related incident, or the injury was not severe enough to prevent the worker from doing their job. For this reason, it is important that workers protect themselves by informing their employer and seeking medical attention immediately following any serious injury at work. By doing this, medical records can provide evidence of your injury and establish a connection between your injury and your work. In addition, it is expensive for employers and their insurance companies to provide workers’ comp, so they may pressure an injured worker to return before their doctor has approved them for work, but doing so may forfeit continued protection if the injury worsens over time. Do not try to “work through the pain” or return to work against your doctor’s advice.
Understanding MOA vs NPA.
When a worker has been injured on the job and cannot return to work, the employer and their insurance company may offer workers’ compensation through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) or a Non-Prejudicial Agreement (NPA), but these two types of workers’ comp are very different. With an MOA, the employer and their insurance company accept full responsibility for the injury and legally commit to provide the worker with continued salary and medical treatment. An NPA, however, allows an employer to pay workers’ compensation without accepting responsibility for the injury for up to thirteen weeks. Because they have not accepted responsibility, the employer can cancel these benefits at any time and deny the worker their right to return to work until forced to by the courts.
Obtaining reasonable accommodations.
Some on-the-job accidents may be so severe, the injured worker may no longer be able to fulfill all of the duties of their previous job. Employers or their insurance companies sometimes use the limited mobility/strength of an injured employee as a reason to deny them access to their former position, but the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make all “reasonable accommodations” which would allow an employee to complete their assigned duties. Accommodations may include changing the work environment, providing adaptive equipment, sharing or assigning responsibilities, and even allowing for additional time off from work, but it may take legal pressure on an employer to secure these accommodations.
Have You Been Injured On The Job In Rhode Island?
If you've been hurt at work you need to speak with an experienced workers' compensation lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Warwick office directly at 401.946.3200 to schedule your free consultation. We help work injury victims in Providence, Cranston and all areas of Rhode Island.