When you suffer an injury while at your job, you may need to take time off work to recover from your injuries and to file a workers’ compensation claim. At some point in your healing process, you may be able to return to your employment, but only with job restrictions. Some employers who are totally focused on getting the job duties done at all costs may refuse to honor your restrictions and may try to force you to perform all of your job duties. Here, we discuss how to handle this situation and your rights under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws.
What Is a Job Restriction?
A job restriction is a limitation in the duties you can perform at work that is set by the doctor treating you for your injuries. A doctor would issue such a limitation to allow you to continue to work if possible but to prevent you from further injuring yourself and to allow you to fully recover from your current injury. The specific job restrictions your doctor could set will depend on your injury.
A common restriction given is against lifting anything over a certain weight, such as 10 or 50 pounds. Having a lifting restriction may not be a problem for you if you work at an office job that requires no lifting, and you should be able to return to your employment in this situation. However, it can be a problem if you work at a physically demanding job where you are required to lift heavy items or perform other duties that would violate your job restriction.
What Are Your Responsibilities If You Have a Job Restriction?
When you suffer an injury at work, your first step should be to seek medical treatment right away and tell your doctor about your work injury. Answer your doctor’s questions honestly and be consistent in telling medical care professionals about how your accident occurred and about the severity of your injuries. If you are inconsistent, the insurance company for your employer could try to use this to deny your workers’ compensation claim.
If your doctor releases you to return to work with restrictions, you should notify your supervisor and/or human resources department and provide them with the written documentation of your restrictions from your doctor. You will have a duty to try any job that your employer proposes to meet your job restrictions. If you cannot do the work, you need to inform your employer and schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to get updated job restrictions.
What Should You Do If Your Employer Will Not Honor Your Job Restrictions?
Once your employer receives notice of your job restrictions, your employer must accommodate your needs to the extent possible or find you other appropriate work. If your employer has no duties that you can perform, you may still be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. You may also be able to receive vocational rehabilitation, depending on your specific circumstances.
Unfortunately, your employer may try to force you to return to your former job—with all its duties—when you cannot perform them due to your injuries. Here is what you should do in this situation:
- You should remind your supervisor of your job restrictions and what you can and cannot do. In some cases, this could resolve the problem.
- You want to keep a copy of your written job restrictions at your workplace. If you are having a problem with your supervisor, show him a copy of the written restrictions.
- Whenever you begin working for a new supervisor while working with limitations, be certain to inform him of your job restrictions and provide him with a copy of them.
- If you are unable to resolve this with your supervisor, you may want to discuss the problem with a supervisor above yours or your human resources department.
- Your employer may send you to an Independent Medical Exam, and the doctor who sees you may dispute your need for any job restrictions. If this occurs, you may need a detailed letter from your treating physician or another doctor that you hire as an expert explaining why you need these job restrictions. You should also retain an experienced workers’ compensation attorney for advice on how to handle the exam.
- If you are having any disputes regarding job restrictions, you need to contact a workers’ compensation attorney who can advise you on your legal rights and help you enforce them.
If your employer is not accommodating your need for job restrictions or denying your claim for workers’ compensation benefits, Manfred Ricciardelli is here to answer your questions and to fight for the benefits you deserve. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation.