Friday, January 20, 2012

Work Restrictions and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation FAQ’s

If you’ve sustained an on-the-job injury in Minnesota, and your doctor has advised you to limit or restrict your work and/or leisure activities, these limitations are referred to as work restrictions. 

Your doctor may provide you with a workability report documenting your limitations, or may tell you to avoid doing certain activities. If you have concerns about your ability to perform your normal job activities following a work injury, it is critical that you discuss these concerns with your doctor. If your doctor tells you to restrict your work activities, you need to have your doctor provide you with a note or workability form documenting your limitations. Documentation of your work limitations must be provided to your employer. Whether an injured worker has work restrictions or not is a major factor in a Minnesota workers’ compensation case. Injured workers who have work restrictions often have questions, including:

What if I can’t do my job because of my restrictions? 

If you can’t perform your normal job duties, your employer may provide you with light duty work, may make accommodations to your job duties to meet your restrictions, or they may give you an alternative assignment that is within your limitations. If your employer cannot accommodate your restrictions, and as a result, you can’t work at your regular job, you may be entitled to wage loss benefits and/or rehabilitation benefits.

I’m afraid to tell my supervisor that I have restrictions because I don’t want to lose my job, what should I do? 

If you are injured at work in Minnesota, you’re required to provide documentation of any work restrictions to your employer. Failure to do so can hurt your legal rights. More importantly, however, if you continue to work outside your restrictions, you may make your injury worse. Your employer cannot fire you for having work restrictions.

My employer won’t let me come back to work unless I’m 100% cleared for duty, what should I do? 

If your employer cannot provide you with light duty work and you have work restrictions because of an on-the-job injury, the workers’ compensation insurance company should be paying you wage loss benefits while you’re off work. You may also be entitled to rehabilitation assistance from a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant. Don’t let your employer pressure you into being released to full duty before you’re ready. Returning to full-duty work before you’re physically ready to do so can adversely affect your legal rights, and more importantly, it can adversely affect your health.

My employer isn’t following my restrictions. They keep having me do work that’s outside what my doctor says I should be doing, what should I do? 

Your employer cannot force you to work outside your physical restrictions, but unfortunately, some employers do it anyway. What an employee should do in this situation is dependent on the circumstances. A Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help you if your employer is forcing you to perform duties that are outside your restrictions.

I’m working light duty, but I’m still having trouble doing some of my job duties even though they’re within my doctor’s restrictions, what should I do? 

You should discuss the situation with the doctor and explain the job duties that are causing your problems. If appropriate, your doctor may clarify or adjust your restrictions to help you avoid those job activities that are causing you difficulty.

My restrictions are now permanent. My employer can’t provide me with a permanent light duty job. What should I do? 

If you not able to return to your former employment because you have permanent restrictions as a result of a work injury, you may be eligible for wage loss benefits while you look for a new, physically suitable job. You may also be eligible for the assistance of a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultation who can provide vocational rehabilitation services or help you with a retraining plan to help you find a new, physically and economically suitable job.

I don’t have written restrictions – I’ve just been watching what I do at work and avoiding activities that cause me difficulty. Do I need written restrictions? 

Written documentation of your work restrictions are ALWAYS, repeat ALWAYS, better than simply just watching what you do at work. If there’s ever a dispute about your ability to do your job, while your testimony about limiting your work activities can be used to support your claim, written documentation of your restrictions is much, much stronger. We’ve seen this situation go awry for countless injured workers. Written work restrictions go a long way towards protecting your legal rights.

My doctor has given me work restrictions, but the insurance company’s independent medical examiner says I can return to work without restrictions. What should I do? 

You should speak with a Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney. If your claim has not already been denied, it will be soon. That being said, what an injured worker should do in this situation is largely based on the circumstances, and a workers’ compensation lawyer can instruct you on the best course of action. In some circumstances, the injured worker should continue to follow his or her doctor’s orders. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate for the injured worker to try to return to work and see how it goes. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate for the injured worker to undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) to get an objective measure of that worker’s limitations.

I have work restrictions due to an on-the-job injury, and I'm being laid off. Am I eligible for benefits?

In many cases, yes! Workers' compensation insurance companies often fail to tell injured workers who have restrictions, and who are laid off, that they may be eligible for wage loss benefits and/or rehabilitation benefits in the event that they are laid off or terminated. Speak with a Minnesota workers' compensation attorney to help you get the benefits you're entitled to.

I have a work injury and work restrictions, and my employer says I was terminated "for cause." What should I do?

You should contact a Minnesota workers' compensation lawyer. While Minnesota law prevents employers from terminating an employee in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim, unfortunately we see cases on a regular basis where an injured worker who is under restrictions suddenly becomes targeted for write-ups, discipline, and termination, after they're been hurt. Termination for misconduct can be a basis for denial of benefits in some workers' compensation cases. That being said, "termination for cause," is not the same thing as "termination for misconduct." Even when an injured worker with work restrictions has been terminated for misconduct, he or she may be entitled to wage loss and/or rehabilitation benefits.

If you have questions about your work restrictions, what rights you have if you have work restrictions, or what to do if your employer cannot accommodate your work restrictions, a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help. Call Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys. 


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