If you’ve been injured in California, seen a doctor, and have temporary work restrictions, you probably have plenty of questions. It’s possible that you’re unsure what to do or what your obligations are. You also might be wondering about your employer’s obligations, so you can ensure you’re being treated fairly and your job is protected. Here’s what you need to know about legal obligations when you have a medical or temporary work restriction for a work-related claim.
Your boss is going to have a lot more obligations than you will. The first legal obligation is similar to yours in that they need to communicate with you effectively and in a timely manner. They have to engage in “the individual interactive process.” They also have the legal obligation to make any and all reasonable accommodations for you. The only accommodations they don’t have to make are those that place an undue burden on them as employers.
Effective communication can solve many problems, and keeping everyone “in the loop” is a great way to ensure employers and employees can work together effectively. When you turn in a restriction as an employee, you want to be upfront about it. You also want to be clear that it might change. A couple of weeks later, your work restriction may be easier or more difficult for your employer to accommodate.
Either way, if there’s a change in the restrictions for an injured worker or that worker’s abilities, an employer needs to engage in the individual, interactive process. In short, the employer needs to communicate with the employee and see what options they have for making reasonable accommodations. Some changes may not be possible, but if it’s within the employer’s power to realistically make adjustments, they are legally obligated to do so.
Employees will need to provide proper information about their work restrictions. Then their employer will look at those restrictions and see how they can modify the employee’s duties, space, or schedule to accommodate them. For example, if the work restriction is that the employee can’t lift anything over 10 pounds, the work-around for that might be asking a co-worker to do that part of the job. If lifting 10 pounds or more is very frequent, asking for help from someone else might not be as easy.
Employers are technically supposed to investigate the accommodations they’ll be making and determine whether those changes will be an undue burden on them. If something does cause a severe burden on the employer, they don’t have to do it. But they do need to inform the employee and be upfront about the issues. In some cases, the restrictions become permanent, and when that happens, the boss or company may not have any choice but to lay off the employee if they can’t accommodate them.
If you have a permanent restriction that your employer can’t accommodate, they can have the legal right to lay you off. But they have to handle the issue correctly, or they could end up in trouble. First, they have to notify you in a timely manner if they can’t accommodate your new restrictions. They also have to pay you your final paycheck and any accrued benefits owed to you. Then they have to send COBRA notices if they were paying for your medical insurance.
Those notices help you understand your rights and detail how you can purchase and keep the same coverage you had. While COBRA insurance rates can be very expensive, you may need to keep your insurance until you can find another job or make other arrangements. You can also expect your employer to pay into unemployment because you’ll be entitled to compensation. Your employer will need to pay a portion of that.
To make sure you get proper treatment and compensation during and after a work restriction, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a clear understanding of your rights and responsibilities. If you have any questions or concerns, give us a call and get the answers you need. We’re here to help.