Returning to Work After an Accident: Answers from a Top Workplace Accident Attorney in Nassau County
A severe accident at work can keep you away from your job for extended periods of time. Work-related accidents often cause not only immense physical pain and suffering but also psychological pain. Many workers’ compensation recipients worry that their careers may never be the same. As such, the prospect of returning to work after an accident can often be overwhelming and even frightening, as many injured workers don’t know what to expect or whether they’ll be able to perform the duties assigned to them.
Below, you will find answers to frequently asked questions about returning to work after an injury. These responses are provided by an experienced workplace accident attorney who specializes in New York and Long Island cases at our firm.
When Should I Return to Work?
The question of when you should return to work depends greatly upon the facts specific to your case. In most cases, your doctor should be able to make the most informed decision about your ability to return to work. Make sure to talk to your doctor honestly about your conditions and the types of work duties you will be expected to do when you return to work. He or she may then provide you with a step-up program or series of milestones to be achieved before you return. Following your doctor’s orders will prevent you from rushing your decision and potentially setting back your recovery.
Understanding What Happens to Your Worker’s Compensation Benefits if You Return to Work in NY
Workers’ compensation benefits come in two main varieties: medical benefits and lost wage benefits. If you return to work and earn as much as you did before your injury, your lost wage benefits will be suspended. If you earn less than you did before your injury (for example, if you take on lighter duties or work only part-time), you may still be entitled to a “reduced earnings” benefit to make up for your decreased wages. Your medical benefits, however, will not be affected by returning to work. Most importantly, you must keep your employer notified about changes in your physical condition that affect your ability to work, including both improvements and setbacks.
Should I Notify Anyone of My Intention to Return to Work?
Yes. You or your Nassau County workplace accident lawyer should notify the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board and your employer’s insurance carrier that you plan to return to work, as well as any changes in your work status.
What if My Employer Asks Me to Do More Than I’m Able To?
Employers often allow injured employees to return to work with reduced duties, only to gradually increase those duties over time to levels that are beyond the worker’s physical abilities. The best way to avoid a situation like this is to obtain a detailed job description from your employer when you return to work that clearly outlines your duties. If you are asked to perform any duties that are more physically demanding than those in your job description, document it. You are not required to perform job duties that are contrary to your medical restrictions.
Our Workplace Accident Attorney Reminder: You Should Never Feel Like You’re Facing a Hostile Work Environment
Our New York/Long Island workplace accident attorney knows that it is not uncommon for injured workers returning to the job to face taunts, insults, and degrading comments directed toward their physical condition. Federal civil rights law defines this type of behavior as a “hostile work environment,” in which such conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. New York law, which generally conforms to federal civil rights laws, allows individuals suffering from discrimination in the form of a hostile work environment an independent cause of action for damages against their employers.
Does My NY Employer Have to Keep My Job Open While I Am Out?
It depends. If you are covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (federal legislation), the employer is required to hold your job open for a period of twelve weeks. Keep in mind that not everyone is afforded the protection of the FMLA. If you are a member of a labor union, your collective bargaining agreement may contain a provision requiring your employer to keep your job open for a prescribed period of time. Additionally, a written employment contract or policy and procedure manual may address this issue. Aside from these instances, workers’ compensation law does not require your employer to keep your job open while you are out recovering from a work-related injury. However, some employers do re-hire their injured employees. To maximize the chances of returning to your previous job, keep your employer informed about the state of your recovery.
Can Future Employers Deny Me Jobs Because I Have a Workers’ Compensation Claim on My Record?
No. New York law prevents potential employers from asking you if you have had a workers’ compensation claim in the past and the Workers’ Compensation Board cannot share your workers’ compensation case with any other employer.
More Questions? Contact a New York or Long Island Workplace Accident Attorney at Our Firm
For more answers to common workers’ compensation-related questions, please contact an experienced Long Island or New York workplace accident attorney at Turley, Redmond, and Rosasco by using our online form or calling 877-693-2529, 516-745-5666 (Garden City), 631-582-3700 (Ronkonkoma), or 631-399-0400 (Shirley).