If you were injured on the job in Maine and needed time off from work, you’re probably concerned about whether you can go back to your job. In many states, employers do not have an obligation to reinstate an injured worker after workers’ comp leave. Fortunately for employees in Maine, state law does provide significant job-protection rights to injured workers. (For recently injured employees, see our article on how to file a workers’ comp claim in Maine.)
You have the right to request your prior job back after taking workers’ compensation leave in most circumstances. In Maine, employees must be reinstated to their former positions, as long as:
If you cannot perform the job duties of your former position even with a reasonable accommodation, then you can request reinstatement to any other available position to which you are physically suited. Your employer must provide you with a reasonable accommodation if it would allow you to do that job. You can petition the Maine Workers’ Compensation Board to order your employer to reinstate you.
However, there are a couple of exceptions to the right to reinstatement. Your employer is not required to:
Once you have requested reinstatement to either a former position or another suitable position, your employer has a duty to reasonably accommodate your physical disability. A reasonable accommodation is a modification to the workplace, work duties, or work policies that would help you perform the job. For example, if you have a back injury, a reasonable accommodation might be providing a stool so that you can sit as needed.
However, the employer can deny reinstatement if it can prove that no reasonable accommodation exists or that a reasonable accommodation would impose an undue hardship. In deciding whether there is an undue hardship, the workers’ compensation board considers:
Your right to reinstatement lasts for two years from the date of your injury, if your employer has 200 or fewer employees. Reinstatement rights last for three years from the date of injury for employers with more than 200 employees.
If your employer has refused to reinstate you, it cannot try to terminate or reduce your workers' comp benefits for any reason, even if it has legitimate grounds for doing so. Likewise, if you decline an offer to return to a job you’re able to do, you lose your right to collect wage loss benefits.
Employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against employees because they receive workers’ comp benefits. For example, your employer cannot fire you simply because you filed a workers’ compensation claim.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal employment law that makes it illegal for employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate on the basis of disability. Similar to the Maine workers’ compensation law, the ADA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities if it would allow them to do their jobs. (For a more in depth overview of the ADA, see our article on Disability Discrimination in the Workplace: An Overview of the ADA.)