If you have a workers’ comp case in Oklahoma, odds are that you’ll eventually be able to return to work in some shape or form. But what if there’s no job to return to? Can your employer fire you while you’re out on workers’ comp leave? Or refuse to take you back once you’ve recovered? Must it offer you an alternative job that fits your qualifications? Below, we explain the right to reinstatement in workers’ comp in Oklahoma.
In all states, including Oklahoma, it’s illegal for employers to retaliate against employees because they have exercised their rights under the workers’ compensation laws, including:
If your employer fires you for any of these retaliatory reasons, you can collect up to $100,000 in lost wages. However, because retaliation depends on your employer’s motive for firing you, it can be difficult to prove. If your termination happened shortly after you filed your claim, your boss made negative comments about you using the workers’ comp system, or you were fired for poor performance despite excellent performance reviews, you should consult with a lawyer about a retaliation case. (To learn more, see our article on the cost of hiring a workers’ comp lawyer in Oklahoma.)
Oklahoma employees enjoy limited job protection while they are temporarily totally disabled. This is the period of time while they are unable to work and still receiving medical treatment in hopes of improving their conditions. While employees are on temporary total disability, employers may not fire them solely for absences related to the work injury. However, employers may fire employees for other unrelated reasons—for example, if the employer has to cut the position for business reasons. (To learn more about temporary disability, see our article on workers’ comp benefits in Oklahoma.)
If your temporary total disability is over and you’re able to perform your job, your employer typically must take you back. On the other hand, if your doctor finds that you’re not able to perform the job, your employer has no obligation to rehire or reinstate you. (However, you might be entitled to keep your job with a reasonable accommodation for a disability, as described below.)
In some cases, an injured worker will also qualify for job protection under other federal and Oklahoma employment laws.
Disability laws. The federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act require most employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities. If your work injury is serious enough to qualify as a disability, your employer will need to work with you to try to keep you employed. This might include giving you additional time off, changing your work duties, or providing necessary equipment, for example. (See our overview article on the ADA to learn more.)
Family and medical leave laws. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for a serious health condition. If you have a relatively serious work injury, but it only keeps you out for a few months or less, you might be entitled to return to your normal job. (See our article on taking FMLA leave to learn more.)