If you have a workers’ compensation claim, you may wonder about the status of your job while you’re recovering. You might be surprised to learn that in Connecticut, your employer doesn’t have to keep your job open or reinstate you to the same job when you’ve recovered. However, your employer does have an obligation to try to find you light-duty work while you’re still recovering from your injury.
Generally speaking, your employer has the right to fire you or fill your position while you’re on workers’ compensation leave. The major exception to this rule is retaliation: In Connecticut, as in all other states, it’s illegal for your employer to fire you because you filed a workers’ compensation claim. For example, your employer can’t fire you because it doesn’t like the fact that you are collecting workers’ compensation benefits. It can be tough to prove retaliation. However, if the reason for your termination seems made up, or you get fired shortly after filing your workers’ comp claim, you might have a case and should consult with a lawyer.
If you’ve been cleared to return to work while you’re still recovering from your injury, your employer has an obligation to find you a job you’re capable of performing. To qualify, you must be receiving medical treatment or rehabilitation and not yet reached “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). MMI is when your medical provider believes that your condition has stabilized and that you’re not going to improve further.
Depending on the size of the company, the nature of your job, and other factors, there might not be any jobs available that you’re capable of performing. However, your employer must make efforts to locate you a suitable job. If you are denied work and you feel there are job available that you can perform, you can request a hearing before the workers’ compensation commission to challenge your employer’s decision.
Injured workers have an obligation to accept available work if it is offered by their employers. If you refuse available work, your workers’ compensation benefits can be terminated. If your employer has no suitable work available, you can still receive workers’ compensation payments, but you must take a few steps:
Once you’ve reached MMI you can continue to receive permanent partial disability benefits without having to show proof that you’re still looking for work. However, your employer also has no obligation to find you available work after this point.
Although Connecticut doesn’t guarantee reinstatement to your job after workers’ compensation leave, there are ways you can get job-protected leave. Many of these ways have strict time limitations, so it’s a good idea to talk with an attorney before you take leave to make sure you’re not losing any rights.
If you think you could return to the same job with an accommodation, your employer might be required to discuss that option with you under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal employment law that requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities. In order to qualify for ADA protections, your employer must have at least 15 employees, and your work injury must be serious enough to qualify as a disability. (To learn more, see our articles providing an overview of the ADA and explaining essential job functions under the ADA.)
You might also be entitled to reasonable accommodation for a disability under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act. This state law is similar to the ADA, but it applies to much smaller employers: those with three or more employees. However, these are complex laws; you should consult a lawyer if you think you might have a claim.
You might be entitled to job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to eligible employees who suffer from a serious health condition that prevents them from working. After the 12 weeks are up, your employer must return you to the same job, or one that’s very close to it. If your condition makes you unable to return to work after the 12 weeks, though, your employer is not required to reinstate you. You can take FMLA leave and workers’ compensation leave at the same time, but you must fill out the proper paperwork so that your employer knows you plan to use both. (To learn more, including employee eligibility requirements, see our article on your right to FMLA leave.)
Connecticut also has a state law similar to the FMLA that allows 16 weeks of unpaid leave during a two-year period. This state law only applies to employer with 75 or more employees.