Work Restrictions: Employer Responsibilities and Employee Rights

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When an employee suffers a workplace injury, they might be unable to perform their regular duties. A doctor will often prescribe limitations, called work restrictions, to ensure the worker’s safety and recovery. These restrictions could involve reduced hours, limits on specific tasks, or a temporary move to a less demanding role. But what happens if an employer can’t accommodate these restrictions?

Employer Obligations

Employers have a legal duty to provide a safe work environment. When an employee has work restrictions due to a work injury, the employer must:

  • Make adjustments: This could involve modifying the employee’s duties or schedule, providing assistive equipment, or reassigning them to a different role that fits their limitations.
  • Find alternative work: If the original job can’t be changed to fit the restrictions, the employer should try to find another suitable role within the company for the employee to perform.
  • Offer rehabilitation: If there are no existing jobs that fit the employee’s limitations, the employer may need to provide training or rehabilitation services to help them transition to a new role.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees with work restrictions also have important duties:

  • Provide documentation: They must give their employer the restrictions outlined by their doctor.
  • Good faith effort: They should make a sincere attempt to perform any offered work that fits their limitations.

When Accommodation Isn’t Possible

In some cases, an employer may be unable to accommodate an employee’s work restrictions. Here’s what might happen:

  • Light duty work: The employer might offer modified duties within the employee’s existing job or a different assignment that aligns with their limitations.
  • Benefits: If there’s no suitable work and the employee can’t do their regular job, they may be eligible for wage loss benefits and/or rehabilitation benefits under workers’ compensation rules.
  • Job termination: As a last resort, if the employer can’t accommodate permanent light-duty restrictions, the employee might be terminated. However, they should still be eligible for wage loss benefits while they search for a new suitable job.

Concerns of Injured Workers

Injured workers often have many worries, including fear of losing their job and making their injury worse. Knowing their rights and having access to resources is crucial.

  • Fear of retaliation: Workers shouldn’t be afraid to report restrictions. Employers cannot fire someone simply for having work restrictions.
  • Light duty challenges: Even with light-duty work, an employee might still struggle. If so, it’s important to communicate these issues to the doctor who may adjust the restrictions accordingly.
  • Permanent restrictions: If an employee has permanent restrictions and the employer can’t provide a permanent modified job, termination may occur. However, they should be eligible for wage loss benefits and help from a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC) who can assist with job placement or retraining.
  • Insurance issues: Insurance companies might try to minimize costs by denying claims or cutting off benefits. Consulting a workers’ compensation attorney is important to protect rights.

Conclusion

Work restrictions can be complex for both employers and employees. Understanding their legal responsibilities and rights is essential. If an employer can’t accommodate restrictions, various support systems exist to assist the injured worker. However, seeking professional legal advice is always recommended to ensure all rights are protected.

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