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My Employer Won’t Let Me Work Until I Am Fully Recovered

Is your injury severe enough to prevent you from working? This injury could lead to added stress and anxiety in your life. Not knowing what happens next can be a frightening feeling. 

Continue reading to see what happens when your insurance adjuster halts your payments, and your boss will not let you back to work. If this is your experience currently, contact the attorneys at Matz Injury Law. 

What Should I Do if My Employer Refuses to Let Me Return From Medical Leave?

Man wrapping his wrist in a bandage

Some employers do not want to let injured employees return to work until they are 100% recovered and able to perform all of the job duties they could handle before their injury. You might have two possible courses of action if your doctor says you can return to light-duty work, but your employer says no.

First, your insurance should cover your injury up to a specific timeframe if your employer will not let you come back to work. Michigan worker’s compensation law states that your insurer must continue to pay benefits for up to three years as long as your doctor has placed restrictions on your ability to work.

Second, if your employer has jobs available that you could do with light-duty restrictions, they might be violating state and federal employment laws if they do not let your return. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of disability.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency responsible for investigating alleged violations of employee rights. It has determined that employers violate the ADA when they have light-duty work available but refuse to allow employees to return to work until they are fully recovered.

Michigan law requires employers to allow injured employees to return to work when they have work “available within the employee’s physical limitations.” If an employer cannot show good cause for refusing to allow an employee to come back, they may owe you damages. A Michigan court can award you one year’s wages, up to a maximum of $15,000.

Recovering damages under state law or the ADA may require a lawsuit. An employment attorney with experience dealing with workers’ compensation and disability discrimination cases can advise you of your legal rights and options.

What if My Job Does Not Have a Light Duty Restriction Job For Me?

In some cases, an employer might not have any light-duty work available for you. Employment laws addressing disability discrimination require employers to make reasonable accommodations to help injured employees perform the essential functions of their jobs. They do not have to provide accommodations, however, if it would cause them undue hardship. Light-duty work might not be possible in some jobs or work environments. It depends on the employer’s business and your job duties.

You will have to wait to go back to work if your employer cannot offer you light-duty work, as opposed to refusing to offer it to you. You might ask your doctor how long they expect your recovery to take. If your injury is likely to affect your ability to do your job permanently, you might need to switch vocations.

If your employer has at least 50 employees in Michigan, you may be eligible for paid sick leave, also known as paid medical leave. State law allows eligible workers to use medical leave for the following reasons:

  • Illness or injury affecting you or a family member;
  • Accompanying a family member to visits with health care providers;
  • Mandatory workplace closures because of public health concerns, such as what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Closure of your child’s or children’s schools for public health reasons; and
  • Quarantine due to you or a family member being exposed to a contagion, such as the coronavirus.

A federal statute, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), also provides medical leave, although it is unpaid. For either type of leave, you must provide a doctor’s note or other documents to demonstrate why you need to take leave.

State law sets standards for when you may be able to claim paid medical leave. Your employer could have different standards. Your employee contract or handbook might have information about specific procedures you must follow.

Can a Doctor Refuse to Let You Go Back to Work?

Your insurance company will want you to return to work quickly. The sooner you return to work, the less they have to pay you in workers’ compensation benefits. Your injuries, however, may prevent you from returning to full-time work safely. Check with your healthcare provider and make sure you are cleared to return. Your doctor has the final say over when you are fit to go back to work, and they should have your best interests in mind.

What if My Employer Wants Me Back Before I am Medically Ready to Return?

At some point, your doctor might approve you for light-duty work, which might include part-time or remote work. If your employer has a job that fits that restriction, you must take it. 

If, on the other hand, your employer wants you back and expects 100% ability before you are ready, you will need to check with your doctor. Your employer is not qualified to assess whether you have any medical conditions caused by your injuries that could make it unsafe for you to return to your job with no restrictions. Your doctor is the one to make that call. If your employer does not have light-duty work available, your insurance should continue to provide wage loss benefits until you are ready to return to work.

When Can You Refuse to Come to Work?

Doctor treating a patient

You might not have to return to work in certain situations. The EEOC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provide legal protections for “high-risk individuals.” It is best to seek legal advice from a Michigan attorney first if you think this might apply to you.

The ADA allows people considered to be high-risk individuals to request remote work or other accommodations from their employers if in-person work would put them at significant risk. The coronavirus is one example of a potential risk. While many of the emergency declarations related to the COVID-19 pandemic have ended, the pandemic itself is not over. An employee may be “high-risk” for the illness if they have certain health conditions, including the following:

  • Advanced age, typically 65 or older
  • Pregnancy
  • Compromised immune system
  • Chronic medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

Is Your Health Condition Forcing You to Take Off Work?

The Michigan personal injury attorneys at Matz Injury Law have many years of experience helping people deal with workers’ compensation claims and other issues related to workplace injuries. We can help you recover what you deserve for your losses. Contact our firm today at 1-866-22Not33 or through our online contact form.