When Is It Okay for Factory Workers to Return to Work Following a Workers' Compensation Claim?

It’s understandable that you may be eager to get back to work following a workplace injury. After all, you may have been out of work for quite some time, so getting back into the groove of things ASAP is something that you may be itching to do.

Or you may be on the other side of the spectrum, loving the time you have off, hoping this “vacation” will never end. However, your employer and its insurers are very eager for you to get back to work. You returning to work means they no longer have to provide you with full workers’ compensation benefits.

Whichever position you are in it is very important to make sure that you are fully ready to go back to work following your injury. Never rush yourself back into the workforce, and don’t let insurance companies force you to return before you are ready.

How do I Know I’m Ready to Return to Work?

The most important thing to take care of before returning to work is to make sure you are in good physical and mental health.

To better understand whether or not you are ready to return, you can ask your doctor some questions:

  • Are you fully recovered from your injury and have you been cleared to return by your physician?

  • Have you and your doctor discussed and decided that you have reached your Maximum Medical Improvement level?

  • Has your doctor informed you that while you may not be completely healed, you are cleared to return to work as long as certain guidelines are followed? Such as not lifting anything over 25 pounds.

  • Have you been cleared to return to work, but don’t feel healed enough to do so?

Must I Return to Work If I'm Cleared?

If the doctor you visited to assess your workplace injuries has given you the green light to return to work, you must do so unless you successfully appeal their statement. Now, the statement the doctor you visited gave is not the ultimatum, you may still ask for a second opinion. However, if you choose not to return to work, you may lose any workers’ compensation benefits that were available to you.

If your return is accompanied by some form of disability or other restrictions, you may ask for reasonable accommodations to allow you to comfortably return. One of the most common fixes for this type of return is for your employer to move your position to accommodate. Be sure to keep a close eye on what you are being paid, because if you had to take a pay cut for your new position, you may be eligible to receive compensation.

Will I Be Fired for Not Returning?

It’s easy to understand why employers don’t like paying workers’ compensation benefits. Especially in a manual labor heavy industry like working in factories, where a healthy worker is a good worker. The thought of having an employee out on leave, who has to receive compensation—who may never fully recover and be able to fill the job requirements—is seen as a liability by many employers. If you work for a company that leaves your position available to you on your return, consider yourself lucky.

In all states, including Wisconsin, it is illegal for your employer to fire an employee due to a workplace injury.

“What about my return? Do they have to re-hire me?”

This is where things get tricky.

One example, your doctor has given you clearance to return to work without any restrictions and your old position is still available. In this case, your employer has virtually no reason to not hire you.

However, if your employer was required to fill your position to meet business requirements, or if there is no position to return to—they may have no responsibility or reason to hire you back.

It’s common in situations like these for the insurance company to make a settlement offer, which is almost always far below what you deserve. However, if you refuse the offer, they may try to use that as an excuse to end your workers’ compensation benefits.

Have Questions? Call (414) 240-0795 for a Free Consultation.

Working with a qualified Milwaukee workers’ compensation attorney, like those at Cooper Law Group, will help you avoid these problems. If you were terminated while receiving workers’ compensation, whether you have returned to work or not, you may be eligible to receive additional benefits for your damages. Be sure to consult with your attorney if you find yourself in this situation.

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Contact us today at (414) 240-0795 to discuss the details of your case over a free evaluation.