After the doctors tell you that you’re not going to get any better (or hopefully not any worse), you as an injured worker will have a decision to make. Once the doctors have declared that you have reached “maximal medical improvement”, in many instances the employer – or more customarily, the insurance company – will seek to settle out your claim by paying out any permanent disability benefits you might be entitled to and also “buying out” your right to future medical care for your industrial injury. However, not everybody wants to leave a job that they perhaps like and have worked at for many years.
Employers also have an interest in keeping an employee and accommodating any work restrictions that may have been prescribed. For instance, if the employer can, in writing, offer you a job that accommodates any work restrictions or disability that you suffered from your industrial injury, it may save the employer some 15 percent of the permanent disability benefits that they would normally have to pay out (conversely, if they are unable to make such an offer it will cost the employer an additional 15 percent). Therefore, not only is there the desire to keep a valuable employee but there is also a tangible benefit for doing so.
In addition, employers are bound by the mandates contained in both State and Federal statutes under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Employment and Housing Act, respectively. For example, under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it is against the law for your employer to neglect to make reasonable accommodation for any “known or perceived” physical or mental disability that you might be suffering from. Furthermore, the employer must engage you in a “timely, good faith interactive process” in which both you and the employer seek to come up with an effective accommodation of your disability in order that you might continue to work. The fact that you have likewise filed a workers compensation does not excuse the employer from observing these state and Federal laws and violation (especially that of FEHA) exposes an employer to extremely high civil damages.
It’s appropriate therefore for an injured worker to review the various options laid before him/her once the doctors and the lawyers finish their business.
*The above article was published in the July 2012 edition of The Magazine of Santa Clarita ~ www.santaclaritamagazine.com. All rights reserved.
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