You were injured at work. You’ve seen the doctor and received some medical treatment. You missed some time from work and the insurance company paid benefits to you. Now, your doctor says that you can go back to work. You are eager to do so, but there are a few things you should have in mind as you get ready to return to work.
Make sure you return to work at a suitable job
When you are going back to work, it is important to consider whether you can do the job that your employer has for you. If the job is not suitable, you could suffer another injury. Luckily, there are parts of Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws that protect you when you are returning to work.
There is a process your employer should use when offering you a light duty job. It is often referred to as the “240” process. This process allows your employer to submit a job description to your treating doctor and have the doctor decide whether that job is suitable for you. Then, your employer should send you a copy of the approved job description along with a Form WC-240 that has other important information about the job (days and hours you will work, rate of pay, etc.). For more detailed information about this process, take a look at our article about light duty job offers.
Make sure you get paid temporary partial disability benefits if you return to a lower paying job
Even if the job is suitable, you may end up making less money when you return to work. This could be for one of several reasons:
- The job has a lower hourly rate
- Your doctor restricts the number of hours you can work
- The pay is based on “production” and you cannot produce as much because of your injury
- You continue to miss time from work for medical treatment (doctors appointments, physical therapy, testing, etc.)
- You miss days from work because your pain flares up
- You do not qualify for bonuses because you are missing time from work
If you make less money when you return to work, your employer or their workers’ compensation insurance company should pay you temporary partial disability benefits. Unfortunately, many times they do not tell you that you should be receiving these benefits. I have talked to many people who should have been receiving them for months and do not get them. If you go back to work and make less money, make sure that the insurance company pays you these benefits.
Make sure you get paid permanent partial disability benefits
If your weekly workers’ compensation benefits stop when you return to work, then the insurance company has a duty to request a permanent partial disability rating (if one has not already been issued by the doctor). Board Rule 263 gives them 30 days from when your benefits stop to request this rating from the doctor. Once the doctor issues the rating, the insurance company has 31 days to start paying you permanent partial disability benefits.
Make sure not to give your employer any reason to fire you
One of the dangers of going back to work after an injury is that your employer could look for a reason to fire you. I see this happen often. Sometimes, it happens before I am hired in a case. Less often, I see it happen where I am already representing someone in a workers’ compensation case.
Georgia is generally an employment at will state. Employment at will is codified in O.C.G.A. 34-7-1. This means that your employer can fire you for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all. I have seen people fired after injuries for minor violations that would usually just get them a warning of some kind. It seems that some employer look for a reason to get injured employees out the door once they return to work.
If possible, you want to avoid being fired. While being fired from your job does not end your workers’ compensation case, it often makes it more difficult. So, be sure not to give your employer any legitimate reason to fire you. If you would like to know more about how being fired can affect your case, you can read this article that goes into the subject in detail.
Other questions about returning to work
If you have other questions about returning to work or other issues in your workers’ compensation case, I would be glad to see if I can help get you some answers. I would suggest setting up a free consultation with me.