If you were injured on the job in Oregon and needed time off from work, you’re probably concerned about whether you can go back to your job. Unlike some other states, Oregon workers’ compensation laws provide strong job protection rights to injured workers. (To learn how to get your claim started, see our article on filing a workers' comp claim in Oregon.)
In Oregon, employers of a certain size are required to provide job reinstatement to injured workers. If you are able to return to your job within three years from the date you were injured, your employer must reinstate you to that position. This is true even if your employer has hired a temporary worker to replace you.
The right to reinstatement only applies if your employer had 20 or more employees either at the time you were injured or at the time you request your job back.
To be eligible for reinstatement, you must obtain a certificate from your treating doctor (or nurse practitioner) approving your return to regular employment. If your doctor finds that you are still incapable of performing your former position after three years from your date of injury, you do not have the right to reinstatement. However, you can appeal your doctor’s determination. (And you might still have a right to a different suitable position with your employer, as described below.)
A few categories of employees are not eligible for reinstatement, including:
If your job was subject to a valid collective bargaining agreement, then your right to request your job back is still affected by seniority rights and other restrictions in that collective bargaining agreement.
Employees lose their right to reinstatement if:
You must make a timely demand to return to your prior job. If the insurance company or your employer notifies you by certified mail that your doctor has released you to work, you only have seven days after that to request your job back.
If you work for a smaller employer—or your doctor has determined that you can’t perform your prior job—you might be entitled to a different job with your employer. All but the smallest employers must provide injured workers with a suitable job, if one is available, within three years of the date of injury. A suitable job is one that is largely similar to the prior job in terms of pay, job duties, required skills, commuting distance, numbers of hours per week, and shift.
The right to request another job from your employer only applies if your employer has six or more employees at the time of your request.
To be eligible for suitable alternative work, you must obtain a certificate from your treating doctor (or nurse practitioner) approving your return to other suitable employment with the employer. If your doctor determines that you cannot return to any position with your employer within three years, your employer may terminate your employment. However, you can appeal your doctor’s determination.
If your job is subject to a valid collective bargaining agreement, your right to request another position with the employer is still affected by seniority rights and other restrictions in that collective bargaining agreement.
You will also lose your right to a suitable position if:
You must make a timely demand to be returned to work at another suitable position. If the insurance company or your employer notifies you by certified mail that your doctor has released you to work at another suitable position, you only have seven days after that to request such a position.
You may still have a right to reinstatement or another suitable position even if you didn't file a workers’ compensation claim or if your claim was denied.
An employer with six or more employees cannot discriminate or retaliate against workers because they applied for workers’ compensation benefits. This means 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. The ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities, if it would allow them to do their jobs. Under this law, your employer might be required to make modifications to the job or workplace in order to allow you to return to your prior job or to a suitable alternative job. (To learn more, see our overview article on the ADA.)
However, the definition of disability under the ADA and its intersection with workers’ comp laws are very complex. You should consult with an employment lawyer if you believe your rights under these laws have been violated.