Workers' Compensation: Is My Job Protected in Rhode Island?

Learn whether you have the right to be reinstated to your job after a work injury in Rhode Island.

If you’ve suffered a workplace injury in Rhode Island and are worried about losing your job, you’ll be happy to know that state law provides the right to reinstatement. Unlike many states, Rhode island requires employers to return employees to work after their workers’ compensation leave is over.

Reinstatement Rights for Injured Workers in Rhode Island

Rhode Island requires employers with ten or more employees to reinstate injured workers within one year of the date of their injury. Employees are entitled to their regular jobs, as long as the job is still available and the employee is able to perform its duties. A position is considered “available” even if it has been filled by someone else while you were on workers’ compensation leave. Your employer must also provide a reasonable accommodation—a change to the workplace, job duties, or work policies—if it would help you do your job.

If your regular job is no longer available—for example, because it has been eliminated in company downsizing—your employer must try to find you an alternative job that you’re capable of performing.

Employees must make a request for reinstatement in writing. If your employer or its insurance company sends you notice that your doctor has released you to work, you must request reinstatement within ten days. You must also request reinstatement within 30 days of reaching maximum medical improvement and within one year of the date of your injury.

When Rhode Island Employers Are Not Required to Reinstate Workers

Rhode Island does have some limits on the right to reinstatement. For example, your employer is not required to reinstate you under any of the following circumstances:

  • You’ve reached “maximum medical improvement” (MMI)—meaning that your doctor believes that your condition has stabilized and that you’re not going to improve further—but you’re still unable to perform your job and no alternative job is available.
  • You’ve entered into a court-approved vocational rehabilitation training program designed to help you find a different job with a different employer.
  • You accepted another job with a different employer after reaching MMI.
  • Prior to reaching MMI, you refused an offer of alternative light-duty work that you were capable of performing.

Does This Job Protection Apply to All Employees?

The right of reinstatement does not apply to all Rhode Island employees. If you’re a temporary or seasonal worker, you do not have guaranteed reinstatement. Also, if you are in a probationary period of 90 days or fewer, your employer does not have to reinstate you. Also, if you work for an employer with fewer than ten employees, you are not entitled to reinstatement.

Other Laws That Provide Job Protection for Injured Employees

In addition to the job protection provided by state workers' comp laws, some employment laws provide the right to take job-protected leave for medical reasons.

Americans With Disabilities Act

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 article providing an overview of the ADA.)

You might also be entitled to reasonable accommodation for a disability under the Rhode Island Disabilities Act. This state law is similar to the ADA, but it applies to much smaller employers: those with four or more employees. This law might be particularly helpful if your employer is too small to be covered by Rhode Island’s workers’ comp reinstatement law.

Family and Medical Leave Act

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. (To learn more, including employee eligibility requirements, see our article on reinstatement under the FMLA.)

Rhode Island is also one of only five states to offer state-funded temporary disability insurance that allows you to receive income during a long-term disability. You cannot, however, receive this benefit at the same time you are receiving workers’ compensation payments. These are complex laws; you should consult a lawyer if you think you might have a claim.

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