If you’ve been injured on the job, you might be worried about whether you have the right to take job-protected time off from work. In Maine, the law does not require your employer to hold your job for you while you’re out on workers’ comp leave. However, you are entitled to certain rights, including a rehire preference and reasonable accommodation. (For recently injured employees, see our article on how to file a workers’ comp claim in Massachusetts.)
In most states, including Massachusetts, employees are not entitled to job-protected workers’ compensation leave. Your employer does not have to hold your job open for you while you’re recovering from your injury. However, there is one big exception to this rule: It is illegal for your employer to fire you because you filed a workers’ comp claim or are receiving workers’ comp benefits. That would be considered illegal retaliation. But if your employer legitimately needs to replace you because you’re out on leave, that is generally allowed in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts does provide some rights to injured workers, though. If you lost your job while you were out on workers’ comp leave, your former employer must give you a hiring preference when you’re ready to return to work. This preference is only over nonemployee job applicants, not current employees of the company. To be eligible for rehire, the employer must have a suitable job open, you must be qualified for the job, and you must be physically capable of doing the job.
If you were denied a suitable job and a nonemployee job applicant was hired instead, you can file a lawsuit in court and recover your lost wages and attorneys’ fees. You should consult an attorney if you plan on pursuing this option.
Workers’ compensation laws extend protection of the state’s disability discrimination law to injured workers. Employers with six or more employees must provide injured workers with reasonable accommodations if it would allow them to perform the essential job duties of their positions. As an example of a reasonable accommodation, an employer might allow you to use a stool while working at a cash register because your doctor has said you need periodic rest after a back injury.
A couple of federal laws might provide additional job protection, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
The FMLA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave for a serious health condition that prevents you from working. After those 12 weeks, your employer must return you to the same job, or similar job. You can take workers’ comp leave and FMLA leave at the same time, but you must fill out the FMLA paperwork properly. (To learn more, including employee eligibility requirements for FMLA leave, see our article on taking family and medical leave.)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal employment law that makes it illegal for employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate because of a disability. The ADA also 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.)