Suffering a workplace injury can be a downright traumatic experience. Not only do you have to deal with the pain of your injury, but you also have to worry about the impact it will have on your life and your family. The process of dealing with both the workers' compensation insurance program can also be quite stressful.
In order to recover as smoothly as possible after an injury, it is important that you understand your rights following a workplace accident. Whether your injury is the result of a single traumatic event or accumulated trauma due to repetitive stress, you may have the right to medical coverage, as well as temporary or permanent disability payments. Your employer should also work with you to help you get back on the job, if possible.
Most employers have to make reasonable accommodations
Whether a worker is already disabled when they apply for a job or suffering from an injury that leaves them disabled while working, they have legal rights in the workplace. Those rights include the right to reasonable accommodations for the type of injury or illness they suffer from.
In some cases, a simple change of work duties can be a reasonable accommodation that allows a worker to stay on the job. Other times, an employee may require assistive technology, such as specialized computers or office equipment. In general, employers should do everything in their power to help a disabled employee return to the job.
Making minor investments in accessibility not only benefits the employee but the company as well, as it will be easier for them to hire people with mobility issues or other medical conditions in the future.
If your employer refuses to make reasonable accommodations, you may not be able to return to work. In that situation, you may have to seek disability benefits or file a lawsuit against your employer for lost wages related to discrimination because of your injury.
Your employer should not retaliate for your workers' compensation claim
If you get injured or sick and on the job, you have a right under federal law to certain protections. You also have rights under California state law for workers' compensation benefits. Although your employer may not be enthusiastic about paying out on those benefits or approving a claim, they should not take that reluctance out on you.
Some companies will retaliate against employees who file for workers' compensation or request accommodations. Retaliation can look like getting fired or denied a promotion. It can also involve changes to how your employer rates your performance, despite no change in how you do your job.
Whether your employer chooses to actively discriminate against you as a form of retaliation or simply refuses to accommodate you, you should learn more about your rights under both federal and California state law. The better informed you are, the better decision you can make about the best path forward while coping with disabling work injuries.